Space Hazards: FAQs

What does EiE stand for?

EiE stands for Engineering is Elementary. EiE is a formal school engineering curriculum for elementary students designed and distributed by the Museum of Science - Boston. It's a research-based, flexible, inquiry-based curriculum that gives teachers everything they need to integrate engineering with the science subjects they already teach. Engineering Adventures are EiE units created for grades 3-5, while Engineering is Everywhere is created for grades 6-8.


Can the online activities and websites be used on a mobile device or non-Apple device?

Yes, the website is designed to be mobile-compatible and works well on either Android or Apple devices. PLANETS is designed for out of school time (OST) educators, an audience whose access to technology resources is widely variable.


How long does this unit take? How much preparation is involved?

Each activity is approximately 55 minutes. There are 9 adventures in the engineering unit and 4 activities in the science series, so if you are doing both, plan about 13 hours of instructional time. A quick reference for prep timing and activity timing is included in our Back Pocket Activity Essentials: Science and Engineering. Please account 1 to 2 hours to familiarize yourself with each Educator Guide. If you are gathering your materials, plan a trip to a general merchandise big box store.


Do 9 adventures translate to 9 sessions or do some adventures span multiple days?

Individual adventures are completed within 1 session (~55 mins each). They are designed so that they can be done either in an afterschool setting (1 session per day) or summer camp setting (condensed into a week).


Do all of these adventures have to be done? Can they be done out of order? What can be cut out if time is short?

The Science Series and Engineering Everywhere Activities/Adventures build on their concepts respectively but are stand-alone units. It is not necessary to complete one in order to teach the other or teach the units in a particular order. If youth are very familiar with technology and engineering, then the Engineering Everywhere Prep Adventures 1 & 2 can be cut. If youth are inexperienced with the engineering design process, we recommend that you include them. Adventures 3-6 should all be included and taught in order but could be modified. There are 3 different hazards tested for in the engineering Adventures. If time is short, you could focus on only one or two and modify Adventures 5 and 6 accordingly. Please allow ample time for creativity and improvement in the building Adventures 5 & 6 and allow ample time at the end of each Adventure for reflection and clean-up. Press here to see images of the Learning Progressions.


Is it best to engage in these adventures with each grade separately or is it equally successful to include all grades together?

Consider the dynamics of your program. If youth in different age groups have buddy systems, play together, and learn together already, then this is a perfect place to expand on this. If age groups are typically separated, but you would like to integrate them for these units, be very intentional about group pairings and roles within each group. Make sure each youth has a specific contribution to make and expectation to meet. Designate roles according to each youth's strengths, potential, and preference. Roles may include the recorder, materials gatherer, builder, tester, and fixer.


How can I best support teamwork for these Adventures?

Designate roles according to each youth's strengths, potential, and preference. Roles may include the recorder, materials gatherer, builder, tester, and fixer.


How many youth should be in each group?

The materials list in the Engineering Guide is designed for 12 groups of 2 youth. For the Science Series, groups of 4 youth are best. Make sure that your groups aren't so large that there aren't enough tasks to go around. Also, assigning roles like the note taker, the materials gatherer, the tester, and the presenter will help everyone stay involved. If time allows, a team building activity prior to beginning the unit can set the stage for collaborative success.


Do I need an assistant to run this unit? Is there special equipment needed?

An assistant would certainly be useful to assist large groups of youth in these activities, but if adequate preparation and clean up time is available, it is entirely possible to lead these activities solo. Aside from the consumable materials listed in the Educator Guides, you will need access to the internet and a printer for preparation. If you would like to show visuals and videos on our website, then ideally you will need a computer and a projector.


How much will the materials cost? Do I have to use the exact materials listed?

You can purchase a complete materials kit online from the Museum of Science EiE Store for $639. If this is out of your price range, you can purchase the materials individually at any general merchandise big box store. A complete materials list is included on page xviii of the Engineering Guide and on page 26 of the Science Guide. Feel free to use your creativity to substitute materials if that works better for you but test them out first to make sure they will work.


If I were to buy the materials in bulk on my own, are they easy to obtain? Are they expensive?

None of the materials in this unit are particularly difficult to find or individually expensive. You should be able to purchase everything you need at a big box store with a grocery & craft section, and an additional trip to a garden or home supply store (gravel & sand). Many of these materials might even be in your home, yard, or at the homes of youth. Consider using the letter to families on page xxv of the guide to crowd-source supplies.


What else can be done if groups finish early?

If only a few minutes remain, have these groups make flyers or posters for the engineering showcase! If there is more time disparity between groups, have these youth brainstorm or research real-world problems like the COVID-19 pandemic. What could you create with the engineering materials that would help? What mitigation strategies in the science series cards might work? In Adventures P1, P2, A5 and A6: give the group new criteria and constraints. For example, in Prep Adventure 2, have them solve the same problem with a limited amount of tape and cards. For the send a message problem in P2, consider using a window or transparent boundary as opposed to the 15-foot distance.

How much do I need to know about space hazards?

Everything you need to know is outlined in the Educator Guides and Educator Resources on our website. Definitely check out the 8 short videos that introduce key concepts in the unit in our Space Hazards Science Snippets.


Where does the science behind these units come from?

The subject matter, big ideas, and learning goals are taken directly from the results of NASA's Mission Directorate Decadal Survey 2013-2022. In the decadal survey, NASA and its partners ask the scientific community what questions they want answered. The results of the decadal survey guides NASA's missions, research, and focus. The science content included in each unit is provided by PLANETS subject matter experts, in particular those in the USGS Astrogeology Science Center.


Where can I find a glossary of terms and acronyms used in this unit?

There is a glossary of terms included in both the Engineering Guide (p. xvii) and the Science Guide (p. 26). These and additional terms are also available on our website in Space Hazards Vocabulary.


What are some real-world examples of hazard mitigation?

Hazard mitigation doesn't just happen in space. Check out S1 of the Science Series for everyday hazard mitigation like crosswalks, first aid kits, and vaccines. A big real-world example of hazard mitigation is social distancing for the COVID-19 pandemic. In this example, the entire world engages in mitigation for the same hazard. Hazard mitigation in space also helps us live better on Earth. For instance, scientists and engineers working on mitigating bone loss in space are also creating solutions for people with osteoporosis on Earth.


How fast do the astronauts fly in space relative to Earth (in the space station for example)?

The space station travels through space at 17,500 miles per hour at an altitude of about 220 miles. It orbits the Earth about once every 90 minutes. Press here to read NASA's Astronauts Answer Student Questions pamphlet.

How do I help youth understand the engineering process?

Use Prep Adventure 1. This is designed as an introduction to the EDP. Make sure to post the Engineering Design Process poster and point out the steps to youth as they complete the process or do an in-depth reflection at the end. Take a few minutes in each session to talk about what you did and how it applies to the steps on the EDP chart.


Are there tips for when & how to introduce the bolded terms?

Bolded terms should be introduced in context, as they arise, not prior to the unit. If possible, it is best to have youth explore concepts prior to introducing new vocabulary, so they all have a common experience upon which to place the new term. It may also be helpful to have youth give an example of what a term means for anyone who missed a session.


Any guidance for those who failed?

Failure is a big part of the engineering design process. Engineers learn from every mistake they make, and the ultimate solution is better off for it. Engineers sometimes make mistakes on purpose so they can learn how to avoid them later when it's more crucial to get it right. Mistakes and failure can even lead to new inventions to solve problems that weren't even part of the original goal. It often takes multiple rounds of failure and improvement to achieve the desired results. View EiE's video snippets: Engineering Habits of Mind – Persist and Learn from Failure for great inspiration on this topic.

Do many fail at this point?

It varies by group but, yes some do fail and request more time to improve their designs. If this happens, offer guidance in the previous question under Overview - Pedagogy.


Do youth use any time for planning, or do they go straight to creating/design?

It is very common for youth to be excited to work with the materials and skip this. Skipping the planning step though may result in more failures. But as mentioned in questions above, failure is also an important part of the design process. Let youth lead their learning wherever possible and step in as needed to offer suggestions. For example, if youth's designs are not looking promising several minutes in, try pointing out the planning step on the EDP poster and say "engineers rarely skip this step, so you might consider planning your design first to achieve success."


As the educator, should I have made a successful tower prior to leading this activity?

It is not totally necessary to have a successful tower made. However, making one in advance can help you identify sticking points for youth ahead of time. It also may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the strategies of folding or rolling cards, in case youth need a little more instruction.

Can I allow youth time to fix or improve their technologies?

Sure! If you have extra time available, it would be a great idea to introduce the critical "Improve" step of the engineering design process.


What are some general management tips for educators to help the student flow of this activity?

Depending on the size and dynamics of your group, try one or more of these strategies: If you have large numbers and no assistant, try choosing only 1 or 2 problems to solve. Set the stage in one area, and set-up stations ahead of time in a different area so that materials for building and testing are already located in one place, then once the youth are ready to begin building, assign groups to each table.


Are youth supposed to address microgravity in watering the plant or ignore it?

Decide based on the dynamics of your group. Start by asking what we use here on Earth to water plants, then ask if there is a way that water could escape this technology in space and how they might prevent it. If the lack of waterproofing the index cards and tape is challenging for youth to imagine, you can let them know that it only has to be a prototype that holds some water for a few seconds.


Should we keep the same groups each week?

Whether or not you keep the same groups each week depends on your youth and group dynamics. Ideally, groups would remain together during the entire unit but could then be switched up if progressing to a different unit. It's a great idea to get ahead of any necessary changes by assigning groups intentionally based on what you already know of these individuals. If you do not know youth well prior to the start of these units, keep an eye on group dynamics as the units progress and make changes as necessary. Regardless, the roles should change frequently (for example, one child should not be the only one taking notes through the entire unit - all should have a chance to try all roles).

What are some other real-world examples that I can use to get youth engaged?

Try naming a few relatable gloves like those in professional sports: Padding gloves like those used in hockey and baseball reduce impact, while gloves used in football, mountain biking, and golf increase friction to help the athlete grip balls, handles, or clubs better.


Is there an alternative to the video if there is no computer access?

If you do not have computer access in your space, view the video and take a few notes prior to leading the activity. During the activity, summarize what you learned as a story or a series of cool "Did You Know" facts. View the NASA Spacesuit Development video here.


When do we use page 31?

Feel free to print this page or unclip it from your binder and have it handy if youth are struggling with the concept. The images may help. It can also be used in the reflection tool at the end of the activity.


Are youth only testing one type of glove?

Yes, for Adventures 1-4, youth pairs will test only one glove or material and record their results on tables. At the end of these activities the results of the whole group will be compared.

What is the purpose of the paper hand?

The paper hand allows youth to test temperature changes without the warming influence of their own hand. Watch the video, "How to Design a Space Glove."

Does this activity need adult supervision?

The impact weight is a plastic container of metal washers. It is designed to break spaghetti but not hurt actual hands. That being said, it's a good idea to be mindful of youth who are running this test and making sure they are following the correct procedure, i.e. holding it only a foot above the pan, keeping hands and fingers out of the pan completely, and not substituting the washer weight for heavier or more dangerous objects.

Is there background information available for youth?

Yes, a short background content video titled "Dangerous Dust" (also video number 3 in the playlist of videos embedded on the PLANETS Space Hazards Science Snippets). Consider introducing the activity with this very short video or view it beforehand and share what you learned.


Are youth looking for any dust or only traces left on the gloves after cleaning?

The blacklight and glow powder are designed to make the dust observation easier. If it glows, go ahead and have youth count it. In the event you cannot locate a blacklight and/or glow powder, or just can’t get the room dark enough, go ahead and count visible dust. Check out our "How to Design and Test Space Gloves" video for a visual example.


Is there an example picture of a "ready glove"?

There is no "correct" answer for solving this design challenge. If you would like to see an example, then check out our "How to Design and Test Space Gloves" video; however, this should not be shown to youth so that they can be as creative and innovative as possible when they design a glove.


Can we set up more than 2 stations?

If you have extra help and materials and you would like to streamline the activity, this is an option. Be mindful that the more stations you have, the harder it is to assist and monitor. Also, if you are turning lights off and on or youth are using the same dark corner of the room to view their glove in the blacklight, then this may create a bottleneck that extra stations won't alleviate.


What kinds of dust will youth interact with?

The dust should be washed fine sand and glow powder and unlikely to be fine enough to breathe or be hazardous to health. When buying your own or substituting materials, avoid very fine powders that are easily inhaled, or contain any hazardous ingredients.

Are there any additional resources for this?

Yes, the "How to Design and Test Space Gloves" video is a great resource for this activity and shows a clear example for educators of what youth may come up with.


Is there more than one right answer?

Yes, just like in real life, there are always multiple ways to solve this problem. Help youth understand this by modeling the expectation that there can be many viable solutions and allow them to make design choices even if it is not the way that you would have done it.


Is there a way to structure this activity so that it is self-paced?

Based on the dynamics and size of your group, you can introduce this activity as a series of steps that everyone moves through together as written in the guide or as stations with clear instructions for youth who are more independent. For youth who finish early, see examples of ways to extend the unit in the overview FAQs and Going Beyond the Unit. Also, consider having youth who finish early visit other groups who are struggling to build and promote a collaborative rather than competitive environment - the group is one big team.


How do we help kids who struggle with confidence?

First ask questions to identify the problem, then empathize with youth. After it's clear that you see, hear, and understand, try using our own experience or real-world examples of successful people who have struggled along the way but kept at it. If youth have struggled in school, make it clear that there is no consequence to taking a risk in this unit and trying things out. There is no reward or consequence for succeeding or failing; the whole point is to try, test, and improve. View EiE's video snippets: Engineering Habits of Mind on these two pages for great inspiration on this topic: See themselves as Engineers and Problem Solvers.

More optional inspiration: "Imagination is more important than knowledge" – Albert Einstein


How do we help kids with failure?

Failure is a big part of the engineering design process. Engineers learn from every mistake they make, and the ultimate solution is better off for it. Engineers sometimes make mistakes on purpose so they can learn how to avoid them later when it's more crucial to get it right. Mistakes and failure can even lead to new inventions to solve problems that weren't even part of the original goal. It often takes multiple rounds of failure and improvement to achieve the desired results. View EiE's video snippets: Engineering Habits of Mind – Persist and Learn from Failure for great inspiration on this topic.


Are the simulation tests the same tests as those in previous adventures?

Yes, youth should be familiar with these testing procedures from Adventures 1-4. The printable station labels are different, and instructions are modified slightly to better streamline the activity.


What is the order of testing? Should we test the dust station before the cold station?

The tests can be done in any order; however, if youth perform the dust test before the cold test, they will not have to deal with the effects of condensation moisture or accidental wetness that dust may cling to.


What will be the best way to rotate all groups through those test stations?

Depending on the dynamics of your group, you may want to specify an order to process, but it's fine to just let the instructions for each simulation dictate the pace and flow of the activity. If lines are forming, designate a volunteer or group who finished early to be a testing officer to keep things moving.

How can we help youth who do not want to modify what they have made?

Focus for a minute on how great it is that the youth are proud of their glove! Ask them what aspects they are proud of and do not want to lose. Explain that it's important when improving a process to not lose what does work well but improve the aspects that don't. Point out how much prouder they'll be when the process is even better. Many of these EiE Video Snippets: Focus on Engineering Habits of Mind might help.


How do we help kids with failure?

Start by empathizing and validating their feelings. Then explain that failure is a big part of the engineering design process. Engineers learn from every mistake they make, and the ultimate device is better off for it. Mistakes and failure can even lead to new inventions to solve problems that weren't even part of the original goal. Explain this to youth and that their failure is a common and important part of the process. View EiE's video snippets: Engineering Habits of Mind – Persist and Learn from Failure for great inspiration on this topic.


What are some other challenges that I can add to inspire improvements for those who finish early?

Consider challenging youth to improve their glove for another type of hazard (the one they had not yet designed for), or another type of use test (i.e. pick up a paper clip). Or consider adding a size or weight restriction for the glove or ask them to improve it for style. Can they make the same design with less materials or tape?


What if the youth want to change their mission?

If youth have improved the glove from their original design and time remains, it would be a great way to keep these youth engaged (see question above). If not, work with youth on the concept of improvement. Ask and listen. Find out why they want to move onto another mission. Do they feel as though they already solved one mission and want the excitement of a new challenge? Or do they feel as though they failed at this mission and want an easier alternative? If it's the former you could prompt them with some improvement ideas (see question above) and let them know even great technologies can still be improved on. If it's the latter, encourage them to not give up on their designs (see the FAQ about helping youth with failure) and give them some ideas of ways they could improve what they already have to build order to confidence.


Would this be a good place to have them talk to each other about their designs?

Sure! If you have the time, it would be a great way to lead into the next activity where youth present their designs. It’s a great opportunity to improve their designs as one big team and have youth practice sharing in smaller groups before presenting to an audience. View EiE's video: Look at What They're Doing! for great inspiration on this topic.

How can I get youth to communicate their glove clearly? How can I provide more scaffolding for this concept?

Consider giving some guiding questions: Where is your mission located? What materials did you use? What hazards did you have to design for? Which materials were most helpful for which hazard? Did your glove fail the first time? How did you improve your glove? Help them rephrase their answers to: Our mission is to the moon. We used x as our material. We had to design it for cold and dust. etc. View EiE's video snippets: Engineering Habits of Mind – Communicate Effectively for great inspiration on this topic.


How can I get my parents and organization excited about the engineering showcase?

Consider having youth run a marketing campaign by using brain-breaks or down time to create posters or flyers. Send invitations to family, administrators, staff, community partners, etc.


I have never done this before. How should I prepare for the showcase?

Consider making a flyer with the who, what, when, where, why information that you can copy and post all over your organization. Try having youth that finish early decorate these and post them outside the room. You can send this home with parents as well as in invitation if time is limited for creating a letter. Consider offering snacks and drinks to make it more of an event. Set time aside prior to the showcase so that youth can help set up stations to show their guests what they made and how to test it. You can even have youth practice the presentations.


Who will youth present to?

The engineering showcase is a great opportunity for youth to practice presenting to an authentic audience. Try advertising the showcase ahead of time at your organization and sending letters home to parents. Remind parents and administrators/ other educators at your organization the day of the place, time, and what to expect.

Can I get instructions on how best to print the cards?

Download the PLANETS Hazards cards file from our website. Although printer settings vary, choose the following settings if offered: Actual Size, Print single-sided, Landscape, Full color.

How many card decks should I make? Is it easier to have bigger groups?

Due to the collaborative nature of the game, it is best played with 3-4 players. A group of 5 may run out of cards for effective game play. A group of 2 may find it harder to solve the hazards by collaborating. Therefore, it is recommended that you print exactly as many decks as you need for youth to play in groups of 3 or 4.


How can I be mindful of youth who have experienced trauma due to natural hazards?

Never single out youth who you know or think may have experienced a natural disaster. While moving through this activity, observe behaviors and body language. If you notice something, quietly and privately give them leniency and compassion during the activity. Helping youth with trauma is a difficult and delicate matter for educators. Without proper training, it's best to take the approach of compassionate listener and observer while with youth and then seek advice of trained professionals after youth have gone home for the day.

How can I encourage youth to read the cards and not just pay attention to the structure and strategy of the card game?

By now, youth should be familiar with the rules of the game and should be able to incorporate content learning. Suggest youth read the card before playing, or suggest that youth think about ways that Mitigate cards that don't match a particular hazard with icons could actually mitigate that hazard, and discuss with their group if they should be allowed to play it. Move around to different groups and ask why they think a particular card would mitigate the matching hazard. For example, why do you think "Use a robot instead" is a WILD card? In the next activity, there is no game play and content learning is required to move through the activity.

Is there a correct answer?

No, there is the potential for many different answers. Most cards apply to each mission. Youth can choose which they would like to focus on.


This activity seems long for the allotted time. How can I split this up?

This activity can be split: Part 1 (Intro, Assign Mission, ID hazards) & Part 2 (Presentation Prep, Share out, Reflect)


Can youth present their choices in different ways?

Youth can present and share in a variety of ways. Here are some examples: 1) Invite youth to rank the hazards by most likely to least likely and Mitigate cards by easiest to hardest on a poster board. 2) Ask youth to write a compelling argument to NASA about what to consider and read it aloud. 3) Invite youth to organize a play that acts out the top three hazards and mitigations. A group of 4 could have one role for the Hazard, 2 for Mitigate, and one for Chance. Repeat for the next 2 sets. 4) Youth could also write and act out a play or draw a comic that has astronauts and mission control mitigating hazards. The key here is that youth find a fun and informative way to communicate what they have learned.