It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...Israel going to the moon? Between Israel's desire to land the smallest rocket on the moon and the story of famous Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, we all have the opportunity to explore the elements that make up our Jewish identities in the context of exploration and pioneering.
- Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first and only astronaut, died when the space shuttle Columbia crashed in 2003.
- Among other Jewish items, Ramon brought a miniature torah scroll given to him by a Holocaust survivor into space.
- Space IL is an example of another effort that is putting Israel's unique stamp on technological advancement.
Part 1: The Israeli Space Program
- Spend about 10 minutes introducing Ilan Ramon and the SpaceIL program (see supporting materials below). Highlight parts of the stories below that are important and tailored for age-appropriateness, but be sure to note the items that Ilan Ramon took into space, as it is important later in the activity portion.
- Questions to end the Opening Activity (time permitting - the first question is the most important for the rest of the activity):
- Why do you think Ilan Ramon wanted to bring things with him into space? Why did he choose these items?
- Why do you think it was "peculiar" (strange) for him to be the first Israeli in space? Were you ever the first person from your family to do something? How did it feel?
- Why do you think a group of Israelis wants to become the fourth country on the moon? Is it important to you to do something few people have done before?
If you are doing this program over several sessions, you may want to introduce the following session's activity of creating the rocket at this point. Everyone should be encouraged to think about what they'd want to depict on their rockets and create the actual rockets the following day.
Part 2: Creating an Israeli Rocket
- SpaceIL's spacecraft, Beresheet, will carry the Israeli flag - Encourage learners to think about what they have learned about Israel, and how they would represent it on their rocket?
- Learners should be provided with the body tube of their rocket and arts & crafts materials in order to decorate it as an "Israeli" rocket. Encourage everyone to choose decorative items other than the Israeli flag and that represent other things they have learned about Israel.
- For this part, larger groups may work in teams—teams could give their rocket a Hebrew "team" name which could be part of the decoration.
Part 3: Choosing Personal Items for your Journey
Instruct learners to think about what they would take with them into space (or on a significant journey), and have them choose three things to take with them, one in each of the following categories:
- an item that represents them
- an item that represents their family
- an item the represents their Judaism
Participants will draw or write descriptions of their items on a preprinted sheet that contains the Ilan Ramon quote from the Supporting Materials below. Time permitting, leaders could have some or all of the participants share their items with the group.
At the conclusion of this part of the activity, learners will roll up the provided sheet and fit it into the nose cone of their rocket.
Part 4: Blast Off!
In groups or as individuals, learners will launch their rockets. Contests can be made around altitude, duration of flight, and successful deploy of the parachute.
Wrap up this activity by gathering the group to discuss the following ideas and questions:
How is Ilan Ramon a pioneer - how were his parents pioneers? Do you think Ilan Ramon was proud of being a pioneer?
Are there any ways that you are a pioneer? Do you enjoy it? Does it make you proud?
Is it important for Israel to land a spacecraft on the moon?
We want our learners to take away the relevance of "pioneerism" in Israeli culture and the connection that it creates between generations.
Variations in format
You don't need actual rockets to make this program work. Participants can create and decorate:
- Pretend space shuttles or rockets (not intended for flight)
- Alka-Seltzer rockets
- Stomp rockets
- Time capsules
For some suggestions, see: http://www.kidzworld.com/article/5659-build-a-model-rocket