Build a Model Space Craft: Exploring Astronaut Space Exploration Project-Based Learning Unit

Exploring Astronauts and Space
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A Complete Lesson on Astronauts and Space Exploration

Train like an astronaut at STEM centers, design and build a model spacecraft, and write a travelogue about a space exploration journey with this cross-curricular PBL unit.

Your 4th to 6th grade science students will learn all about astronauts and space flight in this complete cross-curricular project-based learning unit on space exploration. They'll build background knowledge by participating in STEM-based "astronaut training" centers, do a "test flight" of a model spacecraft they design and build themselves, and write a space exploration travelogue that enables them to synthesize and showcase their knowledge of the astronauts and space flight.

What's Inside

Packed with hands-on inquiry-based activities, extensions and enhancements, cross-curricular independent and group work, and engaging and interactive challenges, this project-based unit comes complete with:

  • For the Teacher: A complete space exploration Lesson Plan with step-by-step instructions for all activities, teaching tips, assessment guidance, and inquiry questions.
  • For Students: A full-color Student Pack complete with all of the printables and instructions students need for the astronaut and space flight activities - just print (or share) and teach!

A complete, ready-to-teach Teacher Pack that includes:

  1. Teacher versions of all the student printables with step-by-step annotations and notes for teaching space exploration;
  2. Formative and summative assessments, answer keys, and a full project rubric;
  3. Instructions and guidance for the extension activities and project enhancements;
  4. Materials and resources lists, and additional resources for lecture and presentation.

What's Included

Lesson Plan - Step-by-Step Project Guide

  • Milestone 1: Building Background Knoweledge of Space Exploration
  • Milestone 2: Famous Astronauts
  • Milestone 3: Spacecraft and Space Travel
  • Milestone 4: Building a New Space Vehicle
  • Milestone 5: Describing a Trip to Space

Teacher and Student Resources

  • List Books About Astronauts and Space Travel
  • Becoming an Astronaut Answer Key
  • Science Astronaut Training Center
  • Rocket Template
  • Technology Astronaut Training Center
  • Engineering Astronaut Training Center
  • Math Astronaut Training Center
  • Astronaut Characteristics Answer Key
  • Astronaut Cards
  • Sample Neil Armstrong Slide
  • Slideshow Mini-Lesson
  • Kennedy Space Center Virtual Tour Answer Key
  • Evolution of Spacecraft Answer Key
  • Space Exploration Quick QuizSpace Exploration Quick Quiz Answer
  • Becoming an Astronaut
  • Launching a Rocket
  • Astronaut Technical Jobs
  • Designing an Astronaut Lander
  • Milestone #1 Inquiry Question
  • Comparing and Contrasting Astronauts
  • Astronaut Character Traits
  • How to Do Good Research
  • Astronaut Slide Requirements
  • Milestone #2 Inquiry Question
  • Kennedy Space Center Virtual Tour
  • Evolution of Spacecraft
  • My Space Vehicle
  • Milestone #3 Inquiry Question
  • ISS Virtual Tour
  • Challenges of Space Travel
  • Requirements for the Space Vehicle
  • Milestone #4 Inquiry Question
  • Space Travel Adventure Questions
  • Milestone #5 Inquiry Question
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Lesson Plan - Astronaut Space Exploration Project-Based Learning Lesson
Teacher Pack - Astronaut Space Exploration Project-Based Learning Lesson
Student Pack - Astronaut Space Exploration Project-Based Learning Lesson


This project-based learning lesson is designed to support and reinforce the concepts taught as part of a lesson on Space Exploration and Human Space Flight. It is built around 5 inquiry-based milestones that incorporate cross-curricular hands-on projects, formative and summative assessments, independent and group activities, and extensions.


In the course of this project-based learning unit, students will:

  • Perform independent and group inquiry-based research on human space flight, including astronaut training, famous astronauts, and the challenges and history of human space flight;
  • Use their research to report on the defining characteristics of astronauts, and participate in STEM-based "astronaut training;"
  • Perform inquiry-based research on the history of spacecraft and space exploration;
  • Use their research to design, build, test-fly, and measure the performance of a model spacecraft in the classroom;
  • Synthesize acquired research on human space flight into a space exploration travelogue, and develop digital and written resources to accompany it;
  • "Show what they know" by delivering a class presentation of their space exploration travelogue.


Students will acquire necessary background knowledge of space exploration and human space flight as part of this project, and instructional materials for providing that background are included in the Teacher Pack.


This project-based unit is divided into 5 milestones. The minimum suggested duration for completing this project-based unit is 5 class periods. However, the unit is completely flexible can be lengthened or shortened as necessary or desired, based on available class time and interest level.


  • Internet access
  • Microsoft Office PowerPoint, Google Slides, or other presentation software.


These activities support the following NGSS curriculum standards:

  • ESS1.A: The Universe and Stars
  • ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System
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