Watch us dance! – childrens’ performance inspired by outer space

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Here are the wonderful children of Room 27 performing “Exploding Planet” – their self-created dance, inspired by outer space. Please check out the video that we made. I couldn’t be more proud of them!

This fabulous song is “L’Esperanza” by the Belgian duo Airscape. The Year 5 teachers had planned for a space theme to merge with inquiry learning, and I knew from the outset that I wanted a trance track – Airscape fit the bill perfectly.

I introduced L’Esperanza to the children before they knew that they would be dancing to it, so they would become used to the patterns and tempo. The choreography was developed  in a series of dance workshops.  We talked about how things move through space, how stars and planets form and explode, and how celestial objects orbit a larger star or planet. At first the kids free-danced, getting into the feeling of the song and discovering what their bodies could do, then they started making patterns. In pairs and small groups, they came up with ‘moves’ that worked with the music and the idea of space. They shared their ideas and tried things that might work together, and I threaded it all into a final routine.

When you watch the video you will see the dance ‘peak’ at the end, as the kids portray a star exploding. At the core are solid molecules [white spots, with umbrellas]; turning and surrounding them are rings of energy [green stripes]; next, you see an atmosphere of gas [on the floor, blue & white]; and spinning around them all are comets and meteors [pink & orange]. When the music peaks, the layers blow apart in a final supernova.

The poi were a relatively late addition (I wanted to get the kids’ feet and bodies moving before we added the extra dimension of poi) and intended to be only a small part of the performance. However, the kids were TOTALLY into swinging and dancing, and the role of the poi got bigger. That trance theme just kept growing!

Each of our three classes (including one double class of 57 kids) had their own dance and my colleagues put together some shared routines for all the classes, including performances to Fat Boy Slim’s ‘Right Here, Right Now‘ and  ‘Children‘ by Robert Miles. They also sang Space Odyssey by David Bowie.

The whole production turned out better than we could have imagined and I am so, so proud of my wee gang. It’s a privilege and an honour to learn and work alongside these children.



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Preparing decor, costumes and kids for a dance production

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We extended our study of outer space into the performing arts curriculum, and all the Year 5 classes created dances around a space theme.  Room 27 choreographed a sequence that showed stars floating in space, coming together, and exploding. In the build up to our performance, we got creative with the decor and costumes.

A galaxy of planets and stars were created for the walls of the school hall, which we blacked out using layers of polythene (a really cheap and effective solution, very easy to put up with staple guns and a few ladders). In small groups, children traced and coloured dozens of circles onto large rolls of paper. Some were faithful depictions of planets such as Earth and Mars, others were kids’ wild and fantastic ideas of far-away celestial bodies.

Late after school one night, my colleague Erin and I went loose with loud music and pots of luminous paint. We layered up the children’s artwork with colour that would glow and pop off the walls when the black-lights came on. We had SO MUCH FUN!

CPDS dance prep_costumes3 CPDS dance prep_costumes2Meanwhile, my living room was being transformed into a psychedelic sewing workshop. I planned the costumes around a key moment in our routine, when the kids would come together in concentric circles and perform the final explosion of a star. Piles of flourescent fabric built up, as I pulled together the ideas for 26 costumes. The help of an amazing group of parents finished it all off – we’ve got a great school community, who are so supportive of what we do in class.

Back at school, we were finessing routines and rehearsing our movements. I’m looking forward to showing you the final outcome!

Outer space – learning resources for children

We’re focusing on outer space in class this term and the children are getting into self-directed learning. I lead workshops on research skills and the students ‘dive in’ to our information sources.

I made a collection of learning resources on outer space for children – websites, videos and lessons mostly suitable for learners their age (8, 9 and 10 years old). It’s OK with me that some of the videos and lessons are sophisticated – even if kids aren’t fully comprehending the content, they’re looking at graphics and laying a foundation for ideas they’ll grasp another time.

Please feel free to copy and use this collection in your own teaching and learning.

Caroline’s Super-Cool Space Collection

The size and scale of the solar system
Compare the size of the sun and earth, compare sun to other stars, learn about the relative size of our solar system. A video from Khan Academy.

Compare the size of the moon, planets and sun
Simple illustration of how space objects near to Earth compare in size

Stars, blackholes and galaxies
How they formed and what happens to them (another Khan Academy video)

How big is the sun?
The sun and moon look like they’re about the same size in sky. A discussion of distance and radius. 

A day in the life of an astronaut

Compare worms, humans, Mt Everst, the moon, the Sun and other stuff

Why is the moon bigger on the horizon?
Have you ever seen the moon rising and noticed how huge it appears? Learn why it looked so big…

One small step for man…”
Watch the film of when man first landed on the moon

Learn about the Hubble space telescope

Amazing pictures of space, taken from the Hubble space telescope

These are real photos, taken by a hugely powerful camera.

How do we study stars?

What is a black hole?

“Twinkle, twinkle little star … you look small ’cause you are far”
Another way to sing that famous star song, using what you know about space!

A cartoon about comets

Dig around and find out more on these cool space sites.

Astronomy for kids
A collection of learning materials aimed at kids your age

National Geographic – the Voyager mission

Watch impressive astronomy clips, famous NASA footage, missions to outer space, the moon landing, mars rovers, space shuttle launches, fun space songs for kids.

Our very local observatory in Auckland! Lots of cool information and videos

The Guardian – Space
The space reporting of a British newspaper. What happend to the Russian spacecraft? Do Mars astronauts risk brain cancer? Why is Saturn’s moon like a sponge?
Huge resource of information about space. This is not collected for kids, but there’s lots of stuff to interest you.

You mean you want more?!  You are a spacey kid … here you go, get your head around this stuff!

Why don’t we know about aliens?

How many universes are there?

Does Pluto have an ice-cap?

How do black holes work?


Thanks for dropping by!


Space art – children’s art with outer space and planets


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This is a lesson on “space art”, that students completed as part of our inquiry into Outer Space. The class has been looking at amazing pictures from the Hubble telescope and other sources, and some children wondered why planets are different colours.

In creating this art, our learning intentions were to:

  • blend pastel colours smoothly
  • use shading to show a light source and shadows.

Each child started by making five or six circles on black paper, tracing around objects in the classroom. The biggest shapes were made using the bottom of a yoghurt pot we keep markers in, the smallest shapes were glue-stick lids. My coffee mug featured a few times too!

Next, children used pastel sticks and coloured the circles to represent different planets. I modelled how to use successively darker shades, blending the layers gradually. Some children chose to recreate images of planets they found in books and online, others were done from imagination. The planets were cut out carefully and kept together using a peg and name label.

We took another piece of black paper outside and flicked on red, white, yellow and blue acrylic paint using toothbrushes (super cheap from the $2 shop). We were making outer space backgrounds that represented the exploding stars, nebula and other phenomena we saw on the Hubble images.

When the background was dry, we arranged our planets and glued them on. Finally, to frame the art, we chose a coloured background that complemented the colours of our planets.

I created the ‘spaceman’ image, combining a photograph of a NASA astronaut and my own shading of craters on the moon’s surface.

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Detail of spaceman

Space art lesson for children Kid art  Detail of planets

Self portrait in wire – preparing for a unit in portraits


I am ridiculously excited about this wire face I finished today. I’m planning a term-long unit on self portraits, including executions in pencil, chalk, paint and now sculpture.

I started fooling about with some wire we had lying around home, after seeing this cool post on wire portraits done at Becker Middle School.

I especially love the shadows my wire face throws against the wall. I’m trying to figure out how we can display the completed artworks, so that they sit a few centimetres proud of their backing.

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How we learn – children’s art inspired by Oliver Jeffers ‘The Incredible Book Eating Boy’

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Oliver Jeffers used collage to create the images in his beautiful and funny story about Henry, a boy who eats books. We liked the idea that “The more he ate, the smarter he got”. We created our own collages, about how we learn. We had to plan several steps and manage all of our resources through different stages, before we could assemble the final collage. Each collage needed to include:

  • a statement about learning that uses cause and effect
  • a diagram that illustrates how I learn
  • an illustration of myself, using Vivid outlines and pastel colouring
  • three re-coloured photos of myself learning
  • relevant backgrounds that I have chosen and coloured

The “learning statement” is about having a growth mindset and understanding that ability can be developed through dedication and hard work. Carol Dweck has a big influence on my teaching and approach to life.

The “learning diagrams” are based on Oliver Jeffers’ illustration of how the books go in, Henry’s brain grows and he becomes smarter. The children needed to create their own version of a learning system. They are really cool – take a close look at the details! Some children made very thoughtful selections of text and images for their backgrounds.

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Maori legends – teacher and children’s art, about Rangi and Papa and their sons

In preparation for our study of Matariki lessons (Māori New Year), we learned about the Māori creation story, explaining the origin of life. Some legends of Matariki say that when Ranginui and Papatūānuku were separated one of their sons, Tāwhirimātea, the god of the wind, became so upset he tore out his own eyes and threw them into the heavens.

Matariki window

I told the children the creation story, and then drew and wrote my interpretation on our windows.

This was the start of a strong fascination with Matariki and other Māori legends, that carried over to home life. Children talked to their parents about legends and Māori history. A group of children worked together to make a literacy and art display about Ranginui and Papatūānuku’s sons, with illustrations and stories. They were especially keen on depicting the gods as  modern-day comic book heroes. Most of the class knew about Tane and Tangaroa, but other characters were new to them – like Tāwhirimātea.

Tawhirimatea by CW
A child’s work describing Tawhirimatea