They might not meet NASA’s height requirement just yet, but a group of preschool-aged children got together in mid June for an astronaut experience at the downtown branch of the Olathe Public Library.
The program offered simple ways to get the feel of space for the pint-sized crowd. There was the environmental training of crawling through a fabric tunnel, math skills to count down to a launch and spacecraft engineering — of the paper and glue kind.
“It’s a learning experience. I’m interested to see if we can spark her interest a little bit,” said Brian Ney, who brought 4-year-old Audrey Ney to the program.
Though Audrey liked the crawling tunnel, she didn’t care for wearing socks on her hands while trying to put a string through some toy blocks. The socks give kids an idea of what it’s like to wear the bulky gloves astronauts have on their space suits.
“It’s too hard for her, but it gives her a challenge,” said Ney, an Olathe resident.
Having socks on her hands didn’t slow down 4-year-old Kennedy Brown, who came to the event wearing an astronaut T-shirt.
“For the past year, she’s been saying she wants to be an astronaut, so any time we get a chance to do anything astronaut-related, we do,” said Laya Brown of Kansas City.
“And she loves to read, so it’s a perfect combination,” Brown said, referring to the space-themed library event.
Charlotte Quint, 4, was absorbed in creating a drawing of a black hole.
“I definitely didn’t draw black holes when I was 4,” said Overland Park resident Elizabeth Quint.
For 15-month-old Jackson Fiedler, one of the highlights was batting around the yellow and white balloons taped to the wall that symbolized the sun and moon.
Another activity required some teamwork. Adults held children by their feet in a wheelbarrow fashion while the kids walked with their hands to retrieve bean bags and return them to the team’s starting point. The bean bags had letters on them that children could use to spell “sun” and “moon.”
“We tried to blend in the STEM science with the literacy,” said Susan Smith, a children’s librarian for the Olathe Public Library.
Several children gathered around the art supplies, arranging and gluing paper triangles and squares to form the basic shapes of their ideal spacecraft. A few kids added additional details in marker.
The program is part of the larger summer reading theme “A Universe of Stories” centered on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
“I’m a real fan of NASA, so I found real activities that tied in” to tasks astronauts must accomplish, said Kristen Ramsdale, a library assistant in the children’s department.
“We just like coming to different events, and anything we can do to keep them busy,” said Celia Fuchs of Olathe, who brought along her two small children to the program.