Premier Academy STEM programThis summer, Premier Academy is celebrating a summer of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). But we don’t want to leave out two other very important letters – R (Reading) and A (Art). All together, we want to be supporting STREAM because without reading and art, much of the science and technology never happens.

For example, once upon a time, it was only in science fiction novels that you’d find mention of the possibility of people living on other planets. While we’ve known other planets exist for a long time – we can see them twinkling at us in the night sky and Venus is so visible many of us know her as the Morning Star – it was only in the world of fantasy that we could envision that happening for real.

Part of the problem in imagining that was that there is only one planet in our system that is habitable at this point in time. Any guesses which one?

Earth

We assumed there were planets elsewhere in the universe, but the question of whether people could live on them or not was a mute point. They were so far away, we’d never make it there and, once we got there, we wouldn’t know whether there were any planets at all, much less any we could live on. .

Earlier this year, scientists discovered a planetary system that has not one, but three potentially habitable planets. They are still very, very far away. If we used our current technology to try to reach them, it would take up 1.5 million years of space travel.

Even if we lived in the world of science fiction and could travel at the speed of light, it would take us 39 years to get there.

Trappest-1

But the distance doesn’t keep scientists from wanting to know more about these planets and what life on them might look like.

For one thing, it doesn’t appear that the planets rotate around a center axis like our planet does. That means they’re more like our moon with one face always turned toward the sun, and the other face always turned toward the darkness of space.

People living on those planets would have to live more like the people at our poles – either always in darkness or always in light. Maybe it would be possible to live on the edge, so you could sleep in a house on the dark side of the planet at night and work at a business on the light side of the planet during the day.

What do you think the edge would be like? Always dark? Always light? Maybe there’s a ring around the planet where you’d actually get some form of dawn and dusk, but it would be permanent, never brightening into day and never darkening into night.

dark or light

There’s another problem, though. The star that these planets orbit around is much smaller than ours. That means the planets orbit it much faster than we do. While it takes us a full year to get around our sun, the outer planet in this new group only takes 20 days and the liveable planets would take much less time.

Imagine life on one of these other planets for a moment.

  • What would it look like? Would there be mountains and rivers or something else? What color would the ground be? Would it be frozen or melting or somewhere in between?
  • How would you feel looking up into the sky and seeing the other planets in the system hanging out like our moon?
  • Could you draw a picture of what it might be like?

ImagineExploring the possibilities in our minds by reading books, writing imaginary worlds, and creating artistic works that help us think about more of the details begins to open up the possibilities of what we can do in the physical world around us.

No science, technology, feat of engineering, or mathematical breakthrough occurred without someone first reading books and playing with the possibilities either in their heads or in some other form of creative work.

While you’re exploring STEM with your preschooler, be sure to include the R and A in the process.

Exploring Space as part of Summer STEM project