Space Exploration: Braving Big Questions through the Arts


I snap my fingers in moon cast shadows on my smooth head. The contours shape me and peel my layers back. My remaining hair falls carelessly into my hands. I sway in starlight as the strands whisk away. I learn to look. My body does not equal disease. I snap my fingers in the flickers of light, squish bare feet into mud and smear its cool wetness into sidewalk cracks. I dab a little behind my ears because I can. I have wanted to be free for so long. I scramble to the top of a boulder and bend into a crescent, baring myself to the night sky. I am in this body. The cool air tingles my scars. My skull bumps are craters to explore. The stars beckon me to fall onto their swirly centers. In defiance of worry and pain, I jump into the glow. I overflow, I love hard. I am the moon’s twin.


Full Moon from Apollo. NASA, 2017.

Looking into the sky is an activity as old as humanity. So much about the universe is unknown. Its expanse accepts our existential questions. Why do we wonder about what lays beyond our sight?


Photo by Rachel Jewell, Cancer Survivor.


Why explore space? Children are the great philosophers. Every day they make sense of how things work, and wonder about existence. Exploring space allows us to brave big questions. Space is a metaphor for the unknown, and astronauts are heroes who boldly go where no one has gone before. They give us bravery to confront our own uncertainties and questions without proven answers.


Play Freeze Dance to explore yourself in space. Turn on a piece of music, like Holst’s The Planets. When someone turns the music off, you freeze. When they turn the music on again, you dance. While you are dancing, call out different verbs to prompt new movements: bend, turn, swing, kick, twist, stretch, sway, walk, run, gallop, skip, jump, march, turn, leap, tip-toe, burst, float, rise, lunge.


Why explore outer space? NBC News’ Dan Falk reports on big questions about the universe that help us talk about big questions about ourselves. Here are a few.

What is dark matter? Falk explains that “the galaxies seemed to hold more matter than could be accounted for by the visible material — stars and gas clouds. This missing mass, dubbed dark matter, is now believed to make up more than a quarter of the total mass and energy in the visible universe. “

Warm up with questions stimulate philosophical conversations about intangible ideas. We can use discussions about these questions for art-making:

  • Think a big thought (about something small)

  • Think a small thought (about something big)

  • Can thoughts make you feel things? Can a thought make you happy? Can it make you laugh? What about scared? Can a thought make you scared?


The Unknown by Gillian Chappell


What is in the dark?

Art helps us explore what we cannot see. Like artist Gillian Chappell accomplished in “The Unknown,” use shapes and color to locate yourself in space. You can do this on a drawing program or in paper collage, using cut up shapes in different colors and textures.

What is dark energy?


Little Green Monster’s Dance Party, by Jackie Gorman, www.littlegreenmonster.org


Scientists discovered that galaxies are moving away from each other and the force causing this is dubbed dark energy. This prompts me to ask: what are forces that connect us and push us away?

Explore force through dance (physical forces and social/emotional forces). After moving, talk about what happened in each case. What causes us to move closer and further away? How do we feel?

  • Move like your room is filled with water.

  • Move like you have been visited by a strong gust of wind.

  • Move like gravity is 10 times as great as normal.

  • Move like the room is full of crawling, buzzing, flying insects.

  • Move like you are helping.

  • Move like you are hurting.

Are we alone?


We Are Stardust We Are Golden, And We’ve Got To Get Ourselves Back To The Garden by Judy Sklar


Scientists theorize that life is plentiful, we just haven’t encountered it all yet. Our sun is one of billions of stars many of which probably have planets. Plus, energy is conserved and not lost, meaning there is always something and never nothing. Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss explains how we are all made of stardust. The hydrogen, oxygen and carbon formed our galaxy, Sun and everything on earth: “So, most of the atoms that now make up your body were created inside stars! The atoms in your left hand might have come from a different star from those in your right hand. You are really a child of the stars.” Sometimes we feel alone, even in a room full of people. We can turn to the sky and allow ourselves to wonder, to connect with nature, the universe and beyond.

Write a Sky Haiku. Haiku is a three-line poem of 5-7-5 syllables. You can use these NASA images as inspiration. As you look and write, notice what you feel connected to. You are the moon’s twin.

Sky Haiku, Daily Activities, Boston Children’s Museum


Resources


Featured blog image, Sol Duet by Therese Verner.

Mental health is important. If you need support, contact MentalHealth.gov. You can also visit your local 211 website (in Orange County, CA ours is www.211oc.org). If you are in crisis, please dial 911.

If you have an arts and well-being event or activity you would like featured in our blog, please contact: sharon@wellbeings.studio

Sharon Chappell, PhD, is the Executive and Artistic Director of Well Beings Studio. She is a teacher, breast cancer survivor, parent and artist. 

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