One thing many families learned about homeschooling in 2020 is that it’s ok to make learning fun! This Summer I created a quick homeschool biography unit about Lonnie Johnson, inventor and Super Soaker creator. Lonnie Johnson is a former engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the inventor of the Super Soaker. He worked for NASA for twelve years and prior to that was in the US Air Force. Johnson also invented one of the world’s favorite toys, the Super Soaker. Johnson attended Tuskeegee University and is from Mobile Alabama.
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Rabbit Trail Idea:
While I didn’t include it this time, you could definitely do an extension activity on The Tuskeegee Airmen and go into further detail about Tuskegee University. I highly recommend the Who Were The Tuskegee Airmen book and corresponding Tuskegee Airmen unit study from The Waldock Way. Jessica puts together some fantastic and affordable homeschool resources.
Black military pilots in the US, trained at a few locations, including the Tuskegee Army Air Fields. They attended what was then known as Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). You can also visit the Tuskegee Airmen Monument in Walterboro, SC. The location was a training ground for some Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
Who is Inventor and NASA scientist Lonnie Johnson?
Because we like to virtually explore Space, I wanted to include part of Lonnie Johnson’s NASA contribution to this mini-unit study. We started off watching an engaging video about the Galileo Probe and then learned about Lonnie Johnson’s life.
Recommended Reading: Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions – when I introduced the mini-unit I presented it with the book and a brand new smaller Super Soaker. We already have two of the large Super Soakers and other various water guns. I figured just one new Super Soaker would be sufficient enough to generate interest; especially with the promise of a family water gun fight at the end of the unit.
What was NASA’s Galileo Mission?
In addition to working on the Galileo mission to Jupiter, Johnson was part of the Cassini mission to Saturn and the Mars Observer project. There are definitely several rabbit hole opportunities to be had with this mini-unit study! While you could incorporate all of Lonnie Johnson’s NASA contributions, I chose to focus on Jupiter as it pertains to Galileo to keep the unit short and sweet.
Watch and Learn:
Use video to engage kids and give them a little bit of information without being overwhelming. Often when we create unit studies or delve into a topic that our kids are interested in, we go overboard and take the fun right out of it.
This first video shows what happened to the NASA Galileo Probe and illustrates what it looked like as it approached Jupiter. The probe discovered that Jupiter has large thunderstorms but, you could really dive in and learn more about what the Galileo Mission discovered about Jupiter.
This next video is a short and to-the-point, kid-friendly interview with Lonnie Johnson. He explains his patents and other projects he’s worked on.
Watch Lonnie Johnson Explain How He Made the Super Soaker
The above-referenced book explains a lot about how the Super Soaker came to be, but hearing about it in his own words is even better. Lonnie Johnson was a guest on CBS Morning back in 2017 and chatted with one of my favorite journalists, Mo Rocca.
Commit to make learning fun in your homeschool by taking something as everyday as a backyard Summer water gun fight and turn it into a quick educational experience. Be sure though, not to go overboard and take the fun out of it.
Whatever your child’s interest, be sure to keep it light and fun. Incorporate something hands-on that includes the whole family. You can then sit back and watch as connections are made. Your child is learning how to learn by digging deeper into the everyday things around them.