B is for Big Bang

Welcome to the “B is for Big Bang” unit hub, a preschool thematic unit about the Big Bang and the origins of the universe! Below, you’ll find everything you need to complete this unit at home or easily adapt for the classroom.

B is for Big Bang

Please note that some of the links included in my unit plans are affiliate links. That means that if you follow the link and purchase something, I earn a small commission for my recommendation. This support helps keep my resources free and is much appreciated!

A Big Bang Primer For Parents/Teachers

Toddlers loves to ask complex questions, expecting a simple and concise answer. As their worlds and minds expand, they may begin to wonder – Where did all of this stuff come from? Where did I come from? Some of my daughter’s questions can truly take my breath away. And that’s how this unit was born.

The Big Bang and History of Us Simplified {Forgive me, astrophysicists!}

The Big Bang is the widely accepted theory of how our universe formed and expanded 13.7 billion years ago. It is not explain where singularity came from, but rather how it turned into the universe we know today from the moment the Big Bang began.

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Source: NASA

Before the Big Bang, our entire universe was very dense and hot, perhaps thousands of times smaller than a crumb left behind by your preschooler. This was called “singularity”, a term to describe the state of the universe before it began to expand and change.

The Big Bang, as an event, is when singularity began to quickly and vastly expand. We think of a “bang” as an explosion (and it surely was explosive in some ways), but the real story is in the expansion. You may wonder why we call it the Big Bang, if it wasn’t actually a bang. The theory was originally entitled “hypothèse de l’atome primitif” or “hypothesis of the primeval atom” early on, but was later flippantly referred to as the “big bang idea” by a scientist who favored another model. Admittedly, the Big Bang is catchier – and it stuck!

Following the initial expansion, the universe was still very dense and hot. All of that pressure gave way to “cosmic inflation”, the period when the universe expanded exponentially. And with this expansion, it also cooled and the physics and matter we know today began to take form. I’ll talk more about this in the next section.

From there, denser regions of matter began to be gravitationally attracted to each other and clouds of dust and gas began to form. From these, galaxies, stars, and planets would emerge, including ours!

About 9 billion years after the Big Bang, a swirling, random cloud of dust and gas known as the “solar nebula” collapsed because of gravitational pull and shock waves from a nearby supernova. Most of the solar nebula’s matter was pulled toward the center, creating what is now our Sun. The rest of this dust and gas continued to orbit the Sun, taking shape as a disc-shaped cloud and cooling as it went. These cooling bits of matter began to form clusters and those clusters grew and grew, collecting other bits of matter. These clusters eventually turned into the planets we now know, with their compositions being affected by their distance from the heat of the Sun. The clusters that didn’t collect into planets still orbit our Sun today, many of them in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

A Little Bit More About the History of the Universe

I’m personally so moved by the sheer wonder of our universe and the idea that all of the atoms in our bodies originate with this orchestra of atomic fusion.

As Carl Sagan said, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

So, how did this matter, or starstuff, come to be?

Here are some of my favorite links that explain the timeline in more detail:
Space.com: The Universe to Now in 10 Easy Steps
The Physics of the Universe: Big Bang Timeline
Phys.org: What is the Big Bang Theory?

Terminology

anion – an atom that gains an extra electron, therefore having a negative electric charge
antimatter – antiparticles (like antiprotons, antineutrons, and positrons); opposite of ordinary matter/particles
astronomy – the study of the stars, planets, and space
astrophysics – branch of astronomy; the study of the physical nature of astronomical objects outside of Earth’s atmosphere
atom – a building block of matter; made up of a nucleus (which contains protons and neutrons) and orbiting electrons
cosmic inflation – the fractions of a second after the Big Bang when the universe exponentially expanded
cosmic microwave background radiation – observable leftover radiation released about 380,000 years after the Big Bang; the best evidence for the Big Bang currently
cosmology – part of astrophysics and astronomy; the study of the universe’s structure and history on a large scale (solar systems and larger)
dark matter – mysterious matter that doesn’t give off or interact with light and is only observed by gravitational interactions; makes up a large portion of the universe (possibly up to 90%)
density – an object’s mass within a certain volume, measured in grams per cm2; this is what we refer to when we talk about the universe being dense – the universe’s mass was very high within a small volume
electromagnetic force – one of the four fundamental forces; this is the “glue” that holds together ordinary matter through the electric charges between atoms.
electron – a negatively charged subatomic particle; also one of the elementary particles; part of an atom, that orbits its nucleus, usually equal in number to the protons of an atom
element – substances that can’t be broken down any further chemically; these are the contents of the Periodic Table
elementary particle – the universe’s building blocks; these particles are the smallest particles and can’t be broken into smaller complete pieces
energy – the ability to do work or cause change; takes on many different forms (kinetic, light, sound, gravitational, etc)
fundamental forces – the four physical forces of the universe are gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear; the ways matter interacts with each other
galaxy – a large group of stars, planets, dust, gas, and other matter held together by gravity (we are in the Milky Way galaxy)
gas – matter without shape or volume that takes the shape of its container
gravity (or gravitational force) – one of the four fundamental forces; the force of attraction between two objects, the amount of gravity depends on the weight of the objects (for instance, Earth and the Sun have a lot of weight and therefore a lot of gravity) and their distance
helium – a simple chemical element made up of two protons and two neutrons; one of the first elements made after the Big Bang
hydrogen – a simple chemical element made up of one proton and three neutrons; the most common element in our universe and the first element made after the Big Bang
ion – an atom that’s missing one of its electrons, therefore having a positive electric charge; can refer to either a positively or negatively electric charged atom (see: anion)
light-year – the distance that light travels in one year (9.46 trillion kilometers); a common unit of measurement for distance in space
lithium – a simple chemical element made up of three protons and four neutrons; one of the first three elements made after the Big Bang
mass – the amount of matter in an object
matter – anything that has mass and takes up space
molecule – two or more atoms held together by electromagnetic force
neutrino – an elementary particle that has no to very little mass and no electrical charge
neutron – subatomic particle; one of two parts of an atom’s nucleus, has close to the same mass as a proton and no electrical charge
nuclear fusion – a nuclear reaction by which small nuclei are combined to make one bigger nucleus and release large amounts of energy
nucleus – the center of an atom; made up of protons and neutrons and has a positive charge
particle – tiny pieces of matter that make up atoms, like electrons, neutrons, and protons
photon – elementary particle; basic unit of light with no mass that moves at the “speed of light”
physics – the study of matter and energy and how they behave and interact
proton – subatomic particle; one of two parts of an atom’s nucleus, has close to the same mass as a neutron and a positive charge; the number of protons determines what element an atom is
quark – an elementary particle; have six different kinds and colors. and are the only particles that experience all four fundamental forces
radiation – waves or particles of energy coming from an object
singularity – a dense region of space where space-time and physics break down; also, the universe before the Big Bang
solar system – the Sun and all the planets and objects that revolve around it, it gets its name from “Sol” (another word for sun) and the system around it
space-time – the combination of space and time into a unified, four-dimensional model
stars – huge, glowing balls of gases (like our Sun)
strong nuclear force – one of the four fundamental forces; the force that holds the particles of an atom’s nucleus together
supernova – an explosion of a dying star as it collapses; creates heavy elements and shines brighter than an entire galaxy of regular stars
universe – the unlimited expanse in which everything is located
weak nuclear force – one of the four fundamental forces; the force that causes radioactive decay and nuclear reactions

A Special Note to Religious Parents

I know it’s natural to shy away from concepts like Evolution and the Big Bang, as they seem at odds with biblical teachings about creation. I have first hand experience with it from teaching in a Catholic school. Nevertheless, I want to urge you to push past that discomfort and still explore these subjects with yourself and your children. Denial of information doesn’t mean the information doesn’t exist. Actually, some religions have explicitly said that the Big Bang theory doesn’t conflict with the biblical story of creation, but simply has a different timeline. The Big Bang theory was actually created by a Catholic priest! Perhaps our measures of time and God’s are different. After all, this theory explains how the universe expanded, but not what caused the big bang in the first place.


What We’ll Explore

This section explains the essential questions and objectives of each targeted learning area.

“Essential questions” are the questions that I’ll strive to answer this week. I also like to ask my little learners for their own “essential questions”, or questions they want to find out the answers to.

“Objectives” are the skills and knowledge that my little learners will acquire through our activities, reading, and exploration of our essential questions.

You can, of course, amend this list to meet whatever learning goals are appropriate for your child. If you aren’t sure where to start, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or submit a question on the contact page!

Language & Literacy

Essential Questions: What are letters? What is the letter B? What sound does the letter B make? How do I draw the letter B? How can I learn new things?

Objectives: Identify and draw the letter B. Identify the sound that B makes. Read books to learn new information.

Mathematics

Essential Questions: How can I identify characteristics that make objects different? How can I group objects together? How can I represent really big numbers to help me understand them?

Objectives: Identify characteristics of objects. Compare objects to find like and different characteristics. Group objects by their characteristics. Use manipulatives to represent large numbers. Describe big numbers in developmentally appropriate ways.

Science

Essential Questions: What is the Big Bang? How was our universe created? How was our planet created? How old is our universe? Where am I in the universe?

Objectives: Define the Big Bang theory and explain the creation of our universe in a developmentally appropriate way. Explore the vastness of our universe and how that relates to them, as a tiny human on one planet in one galaxy.

Social Studies

Essential Questions: Who helped us understand the universe?

Objectives: Learn about scientists who helped us understand the universe.

Motor Development

Essential Questions: How can I use my hands to explore objects and complete tasks?

Objectives: Use hands to explore objects. Use hands to complete tasks.


Activities for the Week

I’ve organized the activities into a week format. Move at your own pace though. Switch activities around, take breaks, add or remove elements. Make it work for you. Sometimes we go through units in just a few days and sometimes it takes weeks.

The most important thing to remember is that learning and exploration should be fun and hands-on. If they’re not enjoying the lesson, you find you’re doing the bulk of the “work”, or you’re struggling to hold their attention, it’s okay to stop or even skip something.

Preschool activities shouldn’t be the bulk of your day or done in one sitting. Remember that your child’s attention span is short (2-5 minutes per year of age, so a 3 year old may only be able to focus on a single task for 6-15 minutes) and trying to work past that will only end in frustration for both of you!

Unit Resources

B is for Big Bang | Projects for Little Hands

B is for Big Bang | Children’s Books and Other Media About the Big Bang and Universe


Monday

Introduction

I always like to present new ideas through some kind of media, whether that’s a book or video. We opted to read “Older Than the Stars“.

Afterwards, we explore our thoughts and make a list of questions to search for answers to. You can download a printable version of this list here: My Questions About the Big Bang.

Science

To help demonstrate the idea of the Big Bang, make a Universe-in-a-Bottle! This project is really simple and little hands can help from start to finish. You can find it here.

Language & Literacy

This week, we’ll be discussing the letter “B”. You can click here (BIG BANG) for a printable of the words “Big Bang” to use for this introduction.

My dialogue looks something like this:
“Now, do you know what letter these words starts with? (Point to B)
B! Big and Bang both start with the letter B.
All letters make sounds. B makes an ‘buh’ sound. Can you say it?”

Then, we sing the Letter Song to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”.
“B says ‘buh’, B says ‘buh’
Every letter makes a sound
A says ‘buh’
Big starts with B
Bang starts with B
b says ‘buh’ to start the words
Big Bang starts with B

Then, we practice tracing B with our fingers. We also brainstorm (or make a list of) other words that start with B. Sometimes they’ll need a lot of prompting with this list, but it’ll get easier as they practice!

Mathematics

To help pique their curiosity more, introduce them to this video.

Then, ask them if they know how many a billion is. Or a million. Explain that these are really, really big numbers. You may want to pull out your Universe-in-a-Bottle again and use some demonstrations with glitter. For instance, “This is ten pieces of glitter. Now, look at all the glitter in the bottle. Do you see how there’s a lot more in the bottle? Those amounts use big numbers like billions.”


Tuesday

Language & Literacy

Reinforce your unit learning by singing the Letter Song again.

Then, practice finding the letter B. You can use manipulatives like flashcards, alphabet pasta, or magnets, or even just write random letters on a piece of paper with lots of Bs! If you have a lot of print writing in your home, make it a real life letter search and hunt for Bs around the house instead!

Finally, practice tracing and writing the letter B. You can use this printable worksheet (Letter B Tracing Sheet) or even use a workbook or your own handwriting to let them practice with.

Science

Then, it’s time for the “Big Bang Balloon” lab. This activity requires a small amount of prep work ahead of time. You can read more about it here.

Mathematics

Remind them about the big numbers you talked about yesterday. Ask your little scientist if they can remember any of the words we use for big numbers.

Then, read the book “Millions, Billions, Trillions”. I love how this book puts big numbers into more tangible concepts for kids. You can also revisit some of the hands-on activities from Monday to reiterate this concept.

Motor Development

Sensory bins can be a really fun and easy way to engage kids in independent, exploratory learning. You can find details on making your own Universe Sensory Bin here!


Wednesday

Language & Literacy

Start your day by making your B page for your Science ABCs Book! You can read more about the book in its completion here, but for now, decide which page you want to create.

Option One is simple: Dip your little scientist’s finger tips in glitter tempera paint and have them create a starry landscape on black or blue card stock.

Option Two is much more involved, but can be fun for scientists who are artistically inclined: Use different found objects and art supplies to make a visual model of the Big Bang and expansion of the universe. Here’s a digital example to stimulate your creativity!

For either option, finish it by writing “B is for Big Bang” on the top of the page and then letting them practice writing “B”s at the bottom of the page.

Mathematics

It’s time to discuss big numbers again! Read “A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars”, one of my favorite reads. Answer any questions they have and try to engage them in coming up with their own “millions”, “billions”, and “trillions”!

As a totally optional extension, here are some tracing sheets for them to see these numbers written out and to practice writing their 1 and 0!
One Million Tracing Sheet | One Billion Tracing Sheet | One Trillion Tracing Sheet

Science

Today’s experiment involves some time in the kitchen. We’ll be making bread to model the Big Bang and universe’s expansion. You can find all the details here.


Thursday

Science

We’ve talked about how our universe came to be, but what about our solar system or even our planet? Watch this video together and see what questions come up!

After watching, it’s time to make your own planets! Spread out some clumps of play dough (“matter”) and let your little scientist roll their hand around, slowly collecting the clumps of play dough into “planets”.

Language & Literacy

While the play dough is still out, print out these play dough mats to shape letters with your dough! You can also check out these play dough mats that also contain a tracing exercise! You can put them inside a sheet protector or even laminate them, to preserve and extend their use!

Social Studies

While most kids dream of traveling to space, they can also learn about it from right here on earth. There are so many careers surrounding space that extend beyond space travel. Carl Sagan helped us understand the universe in so many ways. Introduce your little scientist to him through the video below and the book Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos.


Friday

Language & Literacy

Introduce your little scientist to the idea of being made of “star stuff” through the book You Are Stardust. We (and all of our stuff) are made of atoms, the very stuff that was formed with our universe.

Since you’ll already have your pom poms out for the science and math activities, you can also have your little learner build letters out of pom poms. You can even pull out your play dough tracing sheets from the previous day for them to use as a template.

Science

Watch the video below to understand atoms a little bit more.

Then, make your own atom, with directions here. You may opt to conserve supplies and do the math activity first! It also gets them in on the prep work for this project!

Mathematics

Today, we’ll be grouping like items together, specifically parts of an atom! Lay out 18 pom poms, 6 of each in one color. Mix them together and have your little scientist sort them by color. If your pom poms are different sizes, you can also sort them by size (bonus points if the colors and sizes don’t match up).

After they’ve completed the atom project above, you can extend the math activities to have them count all of the red, yellow, and blue pom poms from all of the atoms.

Parent Project

If you’re going to be keeping up with your Science ABCs Book, gather up all your projects from this week and add them to your book!