These moon rocket forest school activities are perfect for outdoor learning and play with a space theme.
As I’m a bit (okay, a lot!) of a space nerd, I was really excited when one of my sessions coincided with the Artemis 1 moon mission launch. I wasn’t going to be able to stop talking about it anyway, so I made the moon and rockets the theme for the day.
While NASA may not have got off the ground (that time), the sixty children who took part over the course of the day had a little bit more success. We shot straw rockets at a woven vine moon, ate moon-shaped cakes cooked over the fire, painted a moon mural, made leafy aliens and clay moon faces. And we left literally no stone left unturned in our search for life…
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Space and moon rocket forest school activities list
Here is the full list of the activities I made available to the children for this space-themed forest school session. Some are very specific (straw rockets!) to the topic. But others are activities we do regularly, just given a bit of a moon and space spin.
As forest school sessions are child-led, all of these were optional activities or suggestions. The children could use or ignore them as they liked. But this theme really captured their imaginations and even the smallest participants got caught up in our moon rocket adventure!
Full Moon Welsh Cakes
Eat the moon! All together now… “full moon, half moon, total eclipse!“
These tasty moon-shaped cakes are traditionally cooked on a bakestone, but you can use a cast-iron skillet too. We cooked ours in a heavy frying pan on the fire pit.
To make them more moon-like, we used a round cutter rather than the fluted style more typical for Welsh Cakes.
I often cook Welsh Cakes at Forest School sessions, and use a vegan Welsh Cake recipe which avoids as many allergens as possible.
Make a straw out of a stick such as bamboo which has hollow middle, then use this as the propulsion for a paper rocket! Blow hard down the straw, and the rocket will launch!
First, cut a fresh stick to size, to make the launcher. Use a peeler or knife to remove any knobbly bits to make the outside smooth, so that the rocket can slide off easily.
If you have large enough leaves where you are, you can try tracing the rocket template on to these and make the rocket from leaves rather than paper. It is a lot more challenging though!
If you don’t have bamboo or suitable leaves where you are, use a paper straw and ordinary copier paper.
See full instructions and get the template on my post how to make straw rockets.
Safety note – when I was younger, we would make straws out of elder sticks, which have a soft, easy to remove core. However there are concerns around toxicity with elder so I don’t use them any more for activities where they go in the mouth.
Clay Moon Faces
A Moon-y twist on boggart or tree clay faces. This is a classic forest school activity for a reason – everyone loves it!
Make a clay disc and mould features or use finds from nature to stamp and decorate your moon.
Children can either take their moon home with them, or (if you are using biodegradable kiln-fire clay, not air-dry clay) find a tree or rock to put it on.
If you are in an area with clay soil, you can skip the shop-bought clay altogether, and get the kids digging instead.
Go on a Space Walk
Get the kids moving with a space walk that requires balance and control, and where gravity can’t be taken for granted.
If your site is, like mine, and is lacking in natural physical challenges such as climbable trees, you might be able to set up something like this slack line instead.
For our rocket to the moon session, we pretended that crossing the slack line was a moon walk through space, from one spaceship to another!
Blow Moon Bubbles
Everyone LOVES giant bubbles, and I must admit that there’s rarely a session where we don’t have these available.
But for our space theme, it wasn’t bubbles we made, but moons, planets, comets, and asteroids!
Get full instructions on my post for how to make giant bubble wands made from sticks and string. Then whip up a batch of my utterly amazing and unbeatable giant bubble mix. I guarantee it’s the best bubble mix you’ll ever make.
Paint a Moon Rock
We paint rocks and other natural objects all the time in Forest School, but we rarely get the chance to paint MOON ROCKS!
I left the choice of how to decorate the rocks up to the children, and just provided. variety of materials that included paint, white glue (for sticking on leaves and other bits), and chunky coloured chalk – with a pinecone to grate it, to make chalk-dust sprinkles.
Make an alien activity
Making pictures out of found natural materials is another classic forest school activity, and can be linked to any theme.
We made aliens at this session, but could just as easily have made planets, comets, rockets, or stars…
With this activity, I find that a picture or pre-made example is all the kids need to get started. Google nature artist Andy Goldsworthy for your own inspiration and to show the kids.
Build a Moon-lander Den
We do love a bit of den building at forest school, but there’s no reason our shelters always have to be earth-bound!
For this session, we looked at a picture of an Apollo moon lander for inspiration, and then the kids got to work!
We agreed that the branches we used looked a lot like the struts of the landers, and we added a gold and silver space blanket for protection from the extreme cold and high radiation on the moon.
Alas, I didn’t get a picture of the finished lander-den, but everyone agreed it was much more exciting because we were using the emergency blankets instead of the usual tarp. They are so cheap, I highly recommend picking a few up.
Alien Hunting activity
We were pretty certain there was probably no life on the moon, but we thought we should have a good look anyway just to be sure.
Armed with magnifying glasses and bug pots, we discovered some very interesting beasties, though we had to look under logs, stumps, and rocks to find them
We compared our specimens to ourselves and found lots of interesting differences. Some creatures had wings, pincers, or antennae, some had many legs and eyes. They came in all different colours, sizes, and shapes.
Some of the children found it fascinating to chat about why these creatures were all different, and how life would evolve if it did live somewhere like the moon.
Walk like an astronaut activity
How do astronauts walk on the moon? They bounce! We pretended our log circle was a moon crater, and the children made their way around it using big steps and jumps.
I love that this activity is entirely imagination based! No prep or special equipment needed. And we could just as easily have jumped from spot to spot on the ground if we hadn’t had log stumps.
But stumps do add that frisson of risk and require that extra amount of balance and control, which makes the activity just that bit more engaging and challenging. Our astronauts did MANY circuits of our crater!
Other ideas for space and moon rocket forest school activities
Moon, space, and rocket ships are great themes for forest school activity prompts. They allow all sorts of imaginative play, natural world exploration, physical challenges, and scientific observation. Pretty much any standard forest school activity can be given a space twist. I had so many ideas for our session that I wasn’t able to do them all this time.
Here are a few other ideas for you to try:
- Astronaut Food. Cook up some food and turn it into a meal for astronauts. Use a pestle and mortars/mashers to create a puree. This could also be a (non-edible!) mud kitchen activity.
- Footprints on the moon. Make a muddy (or sandy) patch where the children can make their own footprints or write their names on the ground. Just like the astronauts on the moon!
- Catapult launcher: build a catapult out of sticks, to launch a pinecone rocket to the moon.
- Rocket stick: whittle and/or paint a rocket out of a chunky stick
- moon phases flick book: make a moon phases flick book using leaves for your materials.
- Moon and space collages made of leaves and other natural materials, inspired by artists such as Andy Goldsworthy.
- Weave a sphere to make a moon. Using willow withies, vines or other long, thin, bendy sticks.
- Make a twig star.
- Make conker comets
- Make a rocket hand kite
Moon, Rocket, and Space themed books for story time
In some of my forest school sessions, we’ll sit down together and share a story. This time, as we were doing moon forest school activities, we wanted a book with a similar theme.
Obviously there are many, many children’s books with stories about the moon, rockets or space – we’re really spoilt for choice! Here’s just a few that work well for me as forest school books (read aloud in a group). All these story books are short and humorous, with lovely illustrations. These are best suited to nursery and primary-school aged children. But saying that, I’ve seen quite a few older siblings getting into them at story time as well!
The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers
You can’t go wrong with an Oliver Jeffers picture book, and this is one of his classics. The simple tale of a boy who finds an aeroplane at the back of a cupboard and takes a quick flight to the moon… but forgets to fill up on fuel first. Luckily for him, an alien boy has crashed his own UFO nearby. Perhaps they can help each other out of their respective pickles…
Whatever Next? by Jill Murphy
One of Jill Murphy’s great ‘Bear Family’ books. Whatever Next? is the story of a little bear, determined to go to the moon even though his mother says he can’t. With a lot of imagination, perseverance, and inventiveness, he sets off on an adventure. But will it live up to his expectations, and what will his mother say?
Meg on the Moon by Helen Nicol and Jan Pienkowski
Another absolute classic, by two great authors. Who doesn’t love Meg and Mog?
Given that a slightly bonkers magic spell is the engineer of their spacecraft, you’d think this would be a complete nonsense from a science point of view. But the story cleverly weaves in elements such as weightlessness and an encounter with astronauts who invite them back to tea in their moon lander. Touching on footprints in the moon dust, moon buggies, gravity, and astronaut food in a tube, this is a great introduction to space travel for little ones.
And of course it’s very, very funny at the same time.
Moon and space non-fiction books for children
Alongside story books, I sometimes bring along reference books for the children to look at. This is great if they want some quiet time. These three are among the most engaging and easily accessible books across the nursery through primary school age groups.
The first two books (Moon and On the Moon) are written in the form of a non-fiction story. While the remaining books in this list are more straightforward ‘fact’ books. I find that the story form works well for very young children and for encouraging imaginative engagement. But by their nature won’t give as much information as the other reference books.
Moon by Patricia Hegarty & Britta Teckentrup
Moon is a beautiful and very forest-schooly picture book, with gentle, rhyming text. I find it works better as a book read together with just one or two children rather than a whole group though.
While cut outs on each page change to show the phases of the moon, this book is entirely focused on the Earth, describing the night-time activities of different creatures around the world.
On the Moon by Anna Milbourne and Benji Davies
On the Moon book is a lovely option for a rocket to the moon theme as it focuses on how astronauts travel to and from the moon, and what they do when they get there. The book begins and ends with a young child dreaming about going to the moon, then takes with us through every step of the journey.
Told in present tense with real-life photos of astronauts cleverly integrated into the illustrations, this one is great for encouraging play and discussion about what it would be like to be an astronaut.
What is the Moon? by Katie Daynes and Marta Alvarez Miguens
What is the Moon? Usborne lift-the-flap book is a very sweet first reference book. Like the others in the series (which includes What are the Stars?), it’s full of lovely illustrations and simple facts about the moon, with flaps to lift to reveal additional facts or answers to questions.
The level is definitely pre-school to early primary, but covers everything from what the moon is made of to what images people see when looking at it, to how we got to the moon and what it is like on it’s surface.
The Usborne Book of the Moon
A shorter reference book (32 pages) for children up to about six years old, this is nevertheless full of fascinating and amusing facts. The book starts with all the questions that children might have about the moon, and then proceeds to answer them.
There’s a little bit about the moon’s location, a lot about the myths associated with the moon and the history of humanity’s thinking about and studying of the moon. And of course the Apollo moon landings are covered too, with some fun comic-book style spreads describing the Apollo 11 mission.
Professor Astro Cat’s Space Rockets by Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman
We love the Professor Astro Cat books – and there are plenty of space-themed titles in the series to choose from. This one is from the set aimed at slightly younger kids (similar to The Usborne Book of the Moon, above), so has slightly simpler layout and text.
For younger children, there are also Astro Kittens titles in the Astro Cat range. Probably the only board books to cover worm holes, the speed of light, and suspended animation.
If you are after one for older children, go for Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space instead. This is a longer book with more detailed information, but the same vibrant and fun style of illustration.
The Moon: Discover the Mysteries of Earth’s Closest Neighbour by Dr. Sanlyn Buxner, Dr. Pamela Gay, Dr. Georgiana Kramer
This last title is released in November 2022, and is a beautifully illustrated and engagingly written book that covers all sorts of information about the moon and the NASA moon missions. At 80 pages, this is the same length as the Professor Astro Cat Frontiers of Space book, and is aimed at the same age range of about 7 – 10.
Covering a huge range of moon-related topics, there is a mix of lovely illustrations but also images from NASA and ESA.
Do you have a favourite moon related book? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to add to this list.
More Forest School activities from Rhubarb and Wren
Looking for more fun things to make and do with the kids? Check out these great forest school activities from Rhubarb and Wren.
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