The “AstroNuts kids space club” was created in May 2010 by my 11 year-old-son Brett and I. By the age of 5, Brett was a “systems kid”, always building light and water systems in and around the house and was very curious about space.
We created a mini spaceship cockpit in a storage space under the recreation room stairs where we would meet and read about space adventures and set up some “mission protocols”. That “mini-space” was expanded with many cardboard boxes and we named it “Space ship Mercury One”. Local kids were always coming over and creating space adventures so at that point we created the “AstroNuts kids space club”.
The mission of the club was a engage the kids’ imaginations with space related activities in a fun, safe and imagination based environment. Once a month the “crew” of 20, both boys and girls, ages 9 to 12 would meet at out home in Newmarket and be inspired by amazing volunteer space-educators presenting demonstrations on astronomy, rocketry, STEM and “all things space”… we also have a “mystery” Skype guest per “mission” as well as field trips to observatories, rocket launch sites and educational science facilities like University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS). These kids love science!
The AstroNuts kids space club is not a business, not a for-profit, not a not-for-profit and not a charity … it is “just” an amazing kids space club.
Space science is not introduced into the Ontario curriculum until grade 6. In Brett’s school however there were dozens of grade 3 and 4 kids coming to our club with a huge interest in space sciences, so we welcomed their participation and ideas. I especially enjoyed going to some elementary schools and giving short volunteer presentations to students with the hope that they also form space and science clubs and spread the message that space and science are fun.
I am a BSc. graduate from the University of Guelph and have always loved space. My father had the opportunity to work on the Canadarm as an electrical technician when NASA came up to Canada and presented SPAR Aerospace with this amazing technological project. I was inspired as a teenager when the “Eagle” had landed on the moon from then on I followed the adventures of astronauts, scientists and engineers.
Our recreation room has been transformed into a fun, grass-roots space education learning area… It’s “theatre-of-the-mind” and the most exciting part of it is our rocket ship called Spaceship Mercury Two” … SSM-2 is created completely of “space junk”, parts taken from blue bins and “donated discards” that are outdated but when installed onto SSM-2 make our “missions” to other planets exciting … Space ship Mercury Two really excites the AstroNuts’ imaginations.
In order to expose more elementary school kids to “space-education” and the sciences I created the “whats up in space camp and STEM contest: The 3rd annual “whats up in space camp and STEM contest” was held last spring and brought together hundreds of elementary school kids with some very enthusiastic space educators. Our presenter lineup was amazing: a video welcome from Commander Chris Hadfield, an amazing Skype with Bob McDonald, CBC host of “Quirks and Quarks … a Skype with Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and 12 volunteer “space-educators”. They engaged the students’ imaginations with great presentations and activities. The STEM contest portion was judged just before the space camp and the winners went onstage to present their projects and were awarded Government of Canada technology certificates by MP Lois Brown as well as book awards by MDA.
The AstroNut kids also entered a rocket ship float into the 2013 Newmarket Santa Claus Parade and we were surprised to win the “Mayor’s Trophy” for best overall float. Then one week later, in the midst of a blizzard, we entered our rocket ship float into 2013 Aurora “Santa under the stars” night time parade. Once again we were surprised and happy to receive the “Best original Theme” award.
The rocket was a 16′ duplicate of the Soyuz rocket that took Chris Hadfield to the ISS. It was built and donated by Robert Matte of giantscape.com.
Please visit our website www.astronutskidsspaceclub.com. From there you may access our past and future missions, our volunteer Skype and in-house space science educators, view our “AstroNuts space hero’s wall of fame” (includes photo dedications by Tom Hanks aka Commander Jim Lovell in “Apollo 13” and William Shatner aka Captain James T. Kirk in “Star Trek” and well by astronauts and scientists) and you can read up on all our endorsements and wonderful sponsor.
My biggest reward is seeing the smiles and enthusiasm from the many kids that are exposed to this fun and worthwhile volunteer space-science-education initiative. I am also very appreciative of everyones ideas and input.
By Ray Bielecki for SpaceRef