Clairbourn’s Preschool Immersive Space Unit

A Clairbourn preschool student floats in space in front of the planet Mercury using green screen movie magic.

Outer space, with its jewel-like planets, shimmering stars, and astronauts with their cool technology, is very exciting to the imagination! Naturally, Clairbourn preschoolers dove right in to their STEM unit about space with great enthusiasm. The whole class got busy learning about the Milky Way, our solar system, and the planets—and some students even learned the planet names in order!

This was an immersive unit with academic, artistic, and hands-on components. One of the features included a visit from Outreach Coordinator and Astronomer Dr. Jeff Rich from Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, who came to Clairbourn with an inflatable planetarium that fit the entire class inside. A film projector animated the inside of the dark dome with popular wonders of the night sky, and the students were educated about how to locate and identify well-known stars and planets.

Clairbourn students, with Dr. Rich from Carnegie Observatories, entered the inflatable planetarium where projections of planets and stars were projected onto the ceiling of the dome.

In the classroom, students learned solar system terminology—made more engaging by letting the students choose their own word to learn each morning. They also had homework assignments to build a miniature rocket ship and present it to the class by sharing what materials they used, who helped them, and if it was hard to make. They had to share a fun fact about each planet, research who was the first man on The Moon and find out how astronauts sleep, eat, and shower in the space ship.

Left - a student practices writing the space words learned in class each morning. Center - two classmates play "astronaut" during activity time. Right - While wearing an astronaut costume, a student makes a painting of the moon's cratered surface.

It soon became obvious that all of the students wanted to identify as astronauts, so not only did they make art pieces where their faces were combined with astronaut pictures, but they were able to wear full astronaut costumes with helmets in the classroom’s Space Activity Center. One inspired preschool parent, Yue Ma, enhanced the activity center by building a kid-sized, 3D, cardboard rocket ship playhouse and also a wooden-cutout rocket ship with scenic background that all the children could use.

Left - The rocket ship wooden cutout, painted by parent Yue Ma, helped students bring their space dreams to life. Right - Moms play astronaut with their children during Mothers Visiting Day. (On the back wall, student-made rocketships provide additional decoration to the classroom's Space Activity Center.

When the rocket ships props showed up, Preschool Teacher Sayra Rubio became inspired to make a movie with the students playing astronauts in space talking about the planets. Using the school’s video room and Communications Department staff, the filming and editing took place over a two-week time span.

Preschool students were filmed "floating in space" in the school's green-screen video room. (Note the 3D cardboard spaceship playhouse on set, built by parent Yue Ma, which was used in the filming.)

The parent-made spaceships and the classroom astronaut costumes were all used in the movie, and each student had time on camera either walking on the moon or pretending to float in space in front of a green screen. Afterwards, the students’ own narration of space facts was recorded and combined with the footage. The final movie was shown to students and parents on Mothers and Grandparents Visiting Day, and all the moms were given a copy of the movie for their family memories.

Watch Clairbourn preschoolers share what they know about outer space, the planets, and black holes in their very own movie production!

Additional memorable moments from the Space STEM Unit included a student asking their parents take them to a museum so they could see a real rocket ship! Two other students decided to create their own solar system using clay and Play Doh to interest their fellow classmates. And, one additional student took the initiative to make a self-narrated slide presentation about black holes just so she could share her excitement about the subject with the class.

This kind of enthusiastic subject exploration is the result of the teacher and child-initiated programming opportunities offered by Clairbourn’s preschool program, with the end goal to create pre-academic readiness and a life-long love of learning in each student.

Clairbourn School, 8400 Huntington Drive, San Gabriel, (626) 286-3108 or visit










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