Translate this page

Lesson Ideas

Teaching Activities About Space

This collection highlights teaching activities, hands-on lessons, and online simulations we found on the web that can help students learn about space. They are created by science educators and partner education organizations. Just as all our original content is free, we only recommend external resources that are free for teachers.

1. NASA: X-Ray Spectroscopy Lessons

This activity set is offered by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It was created on or before 2015 by two Goddard scientists in cooperation with two public school educators as part of a series of lesson plans and other resources called Imagine the Universe! This x-ray spectroscopy collection is structured as a three-part unit with five background readings and six hands-on activities. Students will learn about the star life cycle, do activities and calculations involving data, and re-create spectra from the stars.

Image from Imagine the Universe!

  • Collection: web page
  • Topic: chemistry, spectroscopy, stars, supernovae
  • Level: high school

2. McDonald Observatory: Astronomy Lessons

This activity set is offered by the McDonald Observatory at The University of Texas at Austin. Each lesson plan is aligned with the Texas state assessment standards (TEKS/TAKS). The collection is extensive: 6 activities for elementary school, 10 activities for middle school, and 24 activities for high school students (with some activities suitable for multiple levels). Lessons range from learning about astronomical technology to mathematical calculations.

Image McDonald Observatory

  • Collection: web page
  • Topic: astronomy, physics, chemistry
  • Level: elementary school, middle school, high school (varies)

3. NASA Jet Propulsion Lab: Build a Spectrometer

This activity is offered by the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab at the California Institute of Technology. It begins with a detailed reading on ways scientists use light to study planets, including Earth. Then the student will build a spectrometer and observe several sources of light. Discussion questions, extensions, and a student worksheet are provided.

Image from NASA-JPL

  • Activity: web page, student worksheet (PDF)
  • Topic: light, optics, spectroscopy, engineering, technology
  • Level: middle school, high school

4. IOP Spark: Exoplanet Lessons

This activity set is offered by the Institute of Physics‘ (IOP) Spark, an “online home” built in 2019 to better share the 100-year-old, UK-based organization’s existing teacher resources. The collection offers five activities about exoplanets that include teacher notes, student worksheets, and detailed instructions. In these lessons students will build models of how astronomers study exoplanets as well as analyze real data collected from scientists.

Image from Institute of Physics

  • Collection: web page
  • Topic: exoplanets
  • Level: high school

5. NASA: Astronaut Physiology

This activity is offered by the STEM on Station initiative connected to NASA’s International Space Station missions. This lesson plan, developed in the latter 2010s, offers two hands-on experiments to demonstrate bone density and muscle loss experienced by astronauts in space.

Want more? Check out our Lesson Idea video and adapted research article connected to this NASA experiment on bone density.

Image from NASA

  • Activity: PDF
  • Topic: astronauts, space, physiology
  • Level: middle school, high school

6. NASA: Food for Spaceflight Activity

This hands-on activity is offered by NASA’s Johnson Space Center Human Health and Performance Education Outreach team and published in 2006 with Spanish translations. Students design and test foods for use in space, given prompts like “How do astronauts make sandwiches?”

Image from NASA

  • Activity: web page, teacher PDF, student PDF
  • Topic: health and nutrition, life science, food science
  • Level: elementary school, middle school

That’s Not All!

Check out our full collection of adapted research articles on Astronomy and Space Travel. Each article comes with tailored teaching resources, lessons, labs, and other activities for your students.

Title image from NASA’s “Sun for Kids”

Share this Lesson Idea

Check out this Related lesson idea

Latest Scientific Articles

We want to hear from you!

If you are a teacher and you used some of our resources in class, we want your feedback! Please fill out this Teacher Feedback survey!

Journal funding support from:

Recommended by: