Fun History Activities for Preteens

Your 11- to 13-year-old will love going back in time to explore the universe with these activities.

By Michelle Anthony, PhD



Fun History Activities for Preteens

The learning opportunities are endless when your child delves into the history of the universe and space exploration. Try these activities:

  • History Mystery: Use as few cues as possible to solve the mystery!
  • NASA’s 50th Anniversary: Incredible interactive timeline across the decades of space (1950-2000). So much to see and do in each decade: from video to audio to news broadcasts of the day. See if you can connect the decade’s music to the values, the people, and happenings of the time period. Can you tie other cultural events to what was happening with the space program (e.g., the competition with the Russians and the launching of various space missions in the 1960’s)? So many events and experiences are related to other happenings. See what you can piece together. Ask your parents. Do additional research. The sky’s (not even) the limit! 
  • We Choose the Moon is a powerful interactive that will allow you to experience firsthand the Apollo 11 launch and mission. 
  • Send a (virtual) postcard to the Spirit Rover on Mars: Once it is sent, you will be taken to Mars to experience the many other thoughts sent to Spirit. Click around and see what others around the world have sent along. Are there any with locations on them that you can track on Google Earth? You can also explore Mars with Google Earth or Google Sky (use the Sky button in Google Art version 5 or later, or go to Google Sky).  
  • Lunar Landing has more lunar fun with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong.
  • Spooky Space Sounds: Hear the real deal.
  • Spaceship Secret Codes: Learn the “language” computers and spacecrafts use to send images back from space. Binary and hexadecimal notations are broken down to clear and simple explanations, supported by lots of fun facts and images. Check out this interactive showing three different algorithms used to compress data before sending.  
  • Interactive Timeline: Learn about the history of space discovery and thinking about the universe, while also learning about historical futures, important events, and notable milestones. The timeline goes form 500 BC to present day, and there are a number of ways to search: discoveries, technology, thought and culture, and key milestones! When you find a topic that interests you, go further.
  • Who’s Who in Space highlights biographies of famous contributors to space studies.

*There are many entrance points for these activities, and many different levels integrated into the sites themselves. In addition, the sites provide instant feedback and increased support for those who need it. Thus, both struggling learners and gifted/motivated learners will find a just right challenge in any of the above activities. 

**While the sites listed here are free, many offer premium services for a fee. None of these activities described require paid memberships, but some require registration and logging in. Your child should have parent approval before doing so. 

Technology Skills
Age 13
Age 12
Age 11
How Things Work
Individuals, Groups, Institutions
Astronomy and Space
Middle School