Taking the Challenge Out of Discussing the Challenger Disaster with your Kids

It was thirty years ago today that the space shuttle “Challenger” exploded on lift-off, killing everyone on board. The destruction of the Challenger remains one of those events in history that people talk about with profound reverence. Most people who were alive back then can remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, and how they felt. Personally, I remember being home sick from school that day, watching the liftoff while lying on my couch. Mostly what I felt was shock and a definite sense of surprise that something created by so many smart people could go so wrong.


When discussing events like the Challenger disaster with your kids, it is often hard to provide the context they need to really understand the importance of an event that they weren’t alive to experience. For example, I’m not sure I “get” how people felt when President Kennedy was assassinated, although for people of that generation it remains as deeply ingrained as the Challenger Disaster or 9/11 is to people of my generation.


Helping Kids Understand The Significance of a Major Event 


To help your kids understand the significance of a major event, it always helps to have reliable, kid-friendly articles like those found in Muse and Ask to read together and discuss.


Below you will find links to two such articles from Cricket family magazines:


The first is about teacher Christa McAuliffe, a passenger on the shuttle that day who was to be the first teacher in space. This article will help your children understand the type of training involved in becoming an astronaut and will give some insight into the personal qualities that made the loss of this inspiring teacher so painful.


The second article, The Challenge of the Challenger, examines what went wrong with the shuttle that day and showcases the man who did the detective work that ultimately led to the information that helped NASA make sure an event like this would never happen again. Read these two articles with your kids and they (and you too, I bet) will have the tools you need to better understand and make sense of this pivotal moment in American history.