Special Coverage

Canadian space content for kids and adults you can consume at home

Junior Astronaut Initiative. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

Millions of Canadians are now sheltering in place in their houses amid the Coronavirus pandemic, providing a challenge for kids (and adults) in finding things to do while waiting out the storm.

Here, SpaceQ has assembled a list of Canadian-focused space resources you can learn from at home, as well as a sprinkling of international resources. (If you know of any we missed, please let us know in the comments or email us contactsq@spaceq.ca.) 

Western University Space Director of Research Gordon Osinski is among the people in the space community suddenly changing plans to support his children. “My wife and I are both profs at Western, so this past week have been a little hectic to say the least,” he wrote in an e-mail on Friday (March 20) to SpaceQ. 

“We find establishing a routine is really important and our nine-year-old has actually taken to writing out a daily routine for herself. Her and her brother (12) both got a bit of homework from schools, so they have that to do. Reading is a big thing of course, and we’ve found some great math programs online. We’re then encouraging them to spend time outdoors … In the coming weeks, we’re definitely thinking about how we can keep their education going and keep them occupied.”

General educational resources: There are many, many places where children, teenagers and adults can look for math, science and space activities to learn online – for free and low cost. A few examples: Khan Academy, Ontario’s Independent Learning Centre, edX, Coursera, and MIT OpenCourseWare. If you’re interested in post-secondary courses for accreditation (which involves tuition), there are several universities that already offer online courses (even before coronavirus closed most institutions) – you can pursue a partial list of available bachelor’s degrees at DistanceLearningPortal.com. Do check with your local institution for distance learning options.

Check your local library: Be sure to use your local municipal library card to access taxpayer-funded resources online, including e-books, magazines, podcasts, videos and other educational resources about space (and any other topic that strikes your fancy.)

Canada Aviation and Space Museum: The Ottawa-based national educational institution on space is closed, but there are many educational activities online that you can pursue from home. There are at least eight activities related to space, including a constellation flashlight, astronomy activities, a guide to discovering the stars, and spacesuit design.

Canadian Space Agency: The agency’s Junior Astronauts program is its newest educational-focused venture, with activities discussing fitness, teamwork, science and technology, and the chance to participate in contests for an astronaut visit or space camp. The CSA’s activities page for educators includes posters, science experiments for the classroom, multimedia, podcasts, educational activities and content related to David Saint-Jacques’ recent mission. Also make sure to check out CSA’s YouTube page and Twitter feed for the latest in Canadian mission news.

CuriosityStream: This is a constantly changing list of documentaries, including space ones. (We will not include specifics here as, like Netflix, the specific list may be different from week to week.)

Disney Plus: Canadian filmmaker James Cameron helmed the 2005 documentary “Aliens from the Deep”, which features hydrothermal vents – a possible resource for life beyond Earth as well. Disney Plus also has numerous American sci-fi series to enjoy, ranging from “Star Wars” to the sprawling “Avengers” universe.

European Space Agency: The CSA has a cooperation agreement with ESA, which also has extensive educational resources of each own. Its “Teach With Space” has activities tailored for elementary or high school students, as well as supplementary pages about the International Space Station, rockets, the solar system and other topics. Also make sure to check out the ESA Education page, which includes activities such as a moon camp, exoplanet hunting, and examining space debris. Like CSA, ESA has a YouTube page and Twitter feed with news about its latest projects.

The Great Courses Plus: While this features American institutions and professors, the mini-lectures in university format do cover many space topics in great depth, for a subscription fee. You can learn about the Hubble Space Telescope’s imagery, the latest research on planets, and the philosophy of popular space series such as “Star Trek”, among many other topics. 

MasterClass: Canadian retired astronaut Chris Hadfield is among the numerous celebrities on the subscription-based MasterClass offering their insights on science, space, entertainment and other topics. Some of the space topics MasterClass offers includes the basics of space exploration (offered by Hadfield) and the basics of filmmaking (offered by Jodie Foster, the star of the space-focused 1997 film Contact).

NASA: Canada is a heavy contributor too many NASA missions, and luckily the American agency has numerous resources online to assist with educators. NASA’s education page includes features such as “Train Like An Astronaut” (with exercises you can do from home) and “Exploring Space Through Math.” Individual NASA centres also may have materials, such as this list from the Marshall Space Flight Center. You can also, of course, get updates through NASA’s YouTube page and Twitter feed (and note that many missions have their own feeds as well.)

Netflix: Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” (2016) shows researchers grappling with how to communicate with aliens who came to Earth. There is extensive space content on Netflix in general, including PBS documentaries, Netflix originals, astronaut-focused documentaries such as “A Year in Space” featuring Scott Kelly, and science fiction series and shows (such as “Star Trek”). Note – this content may change, as Netflix switches its movie and television series regularly.

Ontario Science Centre (or your local museum): There are numerous educational museums across Canada that focus on science and space. As an example, we’ll take the Ontario Science Centre’s educational activities, which include things to do for students all the way from kindergarten to Grade 8. Please do check your local science museum for other activities; here is a list to get you started.

Space Matters: This Canadian collaboration (which includes initial support from a government grant). Their educational website includes activities for students ranging from kindergarten to Grade 12. Some of the topics include the moon, a tour of the solar system, and examining satellites.

Surrey Satellite Technology: While this company is based in the United Kingdom, it does support Canadians (including the military SAPPHIRE satellite). Its activities page includes satellite Lego ideas, a propulsion experiment and a satellite paper model of the Galileo spacecraft.

Western University’s Institute for Space and Earth Exploration: The university has plenty of activities for all ages in space exploration learning. Some of the numerous topics include meteorites, mining space, exploring Mars, impact craters and mapping planetary landscapes, either in short workshops or multi-day adventures.

Zooniverse: While this is an American-focused organization, numerous Canadian scientists participate in the missions featured on this website. This allows “citizen scientists” of all ages to scour data and assist with fundamental space research (and other fields of science, if you are interested.) Some of the activities you can perform include searching for exoplanets, examining variable stars, and helping to search for asteroids with the Hubble Space Telescope.

About Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell
Is SpaceQ's Associate Editor as well as a business and science reporter, researcher and consultant. She recently received her Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota and is communications Instructor instructor at Algonquin College.