Space is an area of study that educators can use to spark the interest and imaginations of students in any country and in almost every age group.
The following websites are eight of the best online resources for getting children involved and interested in the many topics that make up the study of space.
Author John D. Fix wrote the Astronomy book titled, "Journey to the Cosmic Frontier". As part of the promotional efforts to market the book, McGraw-Hill established an entire collection of "Interactives" on the Student Edition section of the McGraw-Hill website for the book.
These "Interactives" are actually really high quality web-based applications that help students see many of the scientific principles involved in things like planetary motion, the mass of planetary objects and their relationships to one another, and much more.
At this website, students will also have access to an Astronomy Timeline, an "Ask the Author" section, and even a library of additional links to explore more sites about space on the Internet.
One of the most impressive, and definitely the most interactive websites about space on the Internet, is the Eyes on the Solar System site offered by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.
This page actually offers new, updated 3-D virtual adventures using actual NASA mission data and imagery. It offers one of the most realistic experiences for students to explore a part of space and actually see what those regions look like, through the eyes of spacecraft that have actually visited those areas.
Exploring Jupiter at Eyes on the Solar System
The amazing thing about this online interactive application is how easily students can change the viewport to examine all views during the space exploration - looking toward the sun, toward the Earth, or straight at the destination. Students can also change the cruise speed and other aspects of the trip.
Another great website that can get students excited to learn about space is KidsAstronomy.com. While the site itself doesn't appear professionally designed as far as the aesthetic quality of the site goes, the resources and activities available there more than make up for what the design lacks.
Activities at Kids Astronomy
There are some terrific interactive activities at this site, including one area where kids can learn all about telescopes, another area where they'll learn tips and advice on correctly observing stars and constellations in the evening sky, and an area where they can click on objects in the Universe to learn more about them.
Exploring the Universe
Throughout many of these activities, there's animation, special sound effects, and narration. In "Deep Space", kids can click on a Quasar, a Nebula, or a Black Hole and learn details about exactly what those objects are and what makes them special.
One of the best designed websites out of this entire list is another NASA website called "The Space Place". This website probably has the most information and activities to offer of all, and would make for a very valuable classroom resource.
Many Activities at the Space Place
Fast access to some of the most popular activities can be found at the bottom of the main screen - with quick links to facts, videos and pictures, an area for activities and coloring books, and a very popular area devoted to games, puzzles and quizzes.
Educators may be more interested in the main menu bar where they'll find links with information for both Parents and Educators, about how to best make use of the website and the volumes of material found there.
NASA isn't the only space agency in the world, and the European Space Agency proves that's the case with its own educational website called ESA Kids.
Explore Space With the European Space Agency
There is a lot of impressive material at this website buried under cute, cartoon imagery for the kids. For example, in the Lab section, kids will discover amazing portraits of land on earth, the I-Spy camera on the Space Station, and instructions on how to track real ESA spacecraft in orbit.
Kids will probably enjoy spending most of their time in the "Fun" section of the site, where they'll find coloring books, an art gallery, puzzles, quizzes and even free downloads of space wallpapers for the computer.
This is another example of a space website with lots of great material camouflaged behind a rather horrid design. While the black background, bright multi-colored text and the disorganized feel to the overall site may make you want to turn away, exploring the links in the left navigation bar will change your mind.
Lots of Information at Aerospace Guide
While there aren't lots of interactive games or activities at this site, it is a very impressive library of information covering topics like space planes, propulsion, space exploration and much more. Information pages include good pictures and lots of valuable information.
It should go without saying that Space.com is easily on the list of top space websites. This website is part of the PBS network and very professionally made.
What kids will primarily find at this website are very detailed, high quality articles with amazing, full-sized images. There is also a large library of videos from the TV show, covering topics about space exploration, space technologies and much more. This is a must-have for any classroom covering the topic of space.
The final website that belongs on this list is definitely Amazing Space. Amazing Space is a website hosted and managed by the Space Telescope Science Institute.
Exploring Amazing Space
Some of the information and materials kids will find here includes the history of telescopes, the Hubble Deep Field Academy where they'll learn what the Hubble telescope is showing scientists about space, as well as comet facts, myths and legends. These are just a few of the hundreds of topics that students will discover at this interesting website.
Whether you are a teacher looking for useful online resources to teach about space in the classroom, or you're a parent looking to get your kids excited about space, the websites above are good resources to introduce your kids to the amazing Universe.