What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Space Racers is the companion website to a new American Public Television TV show designed to excite preschoolers about space flight and the pursuit of scientific knowledge. On the site, kids are exposed to STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as well as the basic concepts of teamwork, problem solving, and thinking skills. Younger kids will enjoy the videos while preschool teachers and homeschooling families can help kids take flight with learning segments and activities.
What kids can learn
- rocks and minerals
- cultural understanding
Thinking & Reasoning
- part-whole relationships
- problem solving
- applying information
- asking questions
- collecting data
- academic development
- achieving goals
- work to achieve goals
- moving beyond obstacles
- meeting challenges together
Engagement, Approach, Support
Choices are simple and clear for the site's young audience. Charming and cute characters keep the tone light but still educational, and kids will be drawn in by reality-based missions and investigations.
Every episode weaves in real science concepts (such as a gravity sling in "Fly Like an Eagle"). Supporting lesson plans cover space basics while letting kids explore before presenting learning objectives.
Links to additional sources are top-notch, but it might be better if resources were grouped thematically on the home page for kids as well as in the parent/educator section.
What's it about?
The main area highlights 11-minute full episodes of the SPACE RACERS show, which features a crack team of digitally rendered bird-like rocket ships: Eagle, Robyn, Hawk, Starling, and Raven. These characters train and learn together at the Stardust Bay Space Academy, carrying out scientific missions in the process. Kids also can choose games, coloring pages, music segments, nonanimated learning segments, and printouts from the lesson plans. Parents and educators can navigate to 17 lesson plans that address STEM concepts such as observation, unit length and depth, the wonders of space, and teamwork. Grown-ups also can access additional resources such as a newsletter, links, and an educational philosophy statement.
Is it any good?
Booster rockets: engaged. Wings: back. Space visors: down ... BLAST OFF! Headmaster Crane and a voice-activated computer system named Ava guide the Space Racer cadets as they launch into the solar system, tackling challenges such as rescuing wayward members or collecting data. The premise and characters are similar to those of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and Jay Jay the Jet Plane but with STEM scientific objectives and content at the fore. For example, the episode wherein Robyn and Hawk brainstorm to save a probe from descending to Jupiter's surface exemplifies the team approach to solving problems. Connect-the-dots printables teach the constellations in a perfect fit with preschooler sensibilities. Kids acquire essential aeronautics knowledge with a link to the fantastic Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum website. Very cool.
A couple of quibbles: Personalities are a bit expected: brainy, innocent, yet brave; insecure but steadfast; mischievous; new kid; and jock. Plus the songs are not especially inspiring. The Space Collector game wherein kids collect asteroids or satellites of a certain shape or color ensures success for little ones by brushing off collisions with non-target objects but is almost too easy. And the 3-D Racer game simply doesn't load. Despite these few failings, Space Racers' lessons, built around video episodes, offer a whole lot of fun resources as well as engaging story lines that will draw in the littlest of learners.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about what it feels like to fly in preparation for a big trip or to process the fear a bumpy flight might induce. Try extending those concepts to space flight.
Families also can talk about curiosity and the desire for knowledge. How many curious people did it take to get humans to the moon?
Enjoy whole-family moon-phase observations in the winter when bedtimes won't be too disrupted by evening sessions.