Teaching young Aussies about the Universe

STAR PARTY. With clear skies it is time to teach children about the Universe.
STAR PARTY. With clear skies it is time to teach children about the Universe.

Next to Dinosaurs kids love space the best.  Just ask any teacher. There are very few children who don’t love to talk about stars, planets, moons, comets, and asteroids. And the questions they ask put adults to shame.

It’s clear skies across Australia. What better way to enjoy that than to have a star party. Get the kids out and show them our night skies. Explain the light from most stars left there thousands, even millions of years ago, and it’s just arriving now.

Kids have amazing memories and are fantastic at learning patterns and associating the names with them. Perfect for constellations, writes Dave Reneke, astronomy writer from Australasian Science Magazine. When teaching children about stars astronomy book courses aren’t enough. Make your lessons as interactive as possible because everything in their world now is in animated form.

Teaching kids astronomy has received a boost with the internet and Smartphones. It wasn’t like that when most of us were kids. Here are some apps that will help. 

Designed for kids aged 4-8, ‘Star Walk Kids’ introduces youngest audiences to the wonders of our Universe. Selected objects are explained in short animated films voiced by professional actors. Google ‘Nasa Kids Club’, then try www.kidsastronomy.com. Check out an amazing website I’ve spent many hours on in the past, www.enchantedlearning.com. 

For a broader choice of online and printable resources see the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Click ‘education’ section.

You can also be clever about your first night sky adventure by going out when there are likely to be meteor showers. This is exciting and you can compete to see who can count the most.

Spotting planets is another fine game and right now all five major planets are stretched out in a line in the Western sky at sunset. Another gobsmacker is the space station passing over. Go to www.spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings for times.

Ways to teach about the night sky are limited only by your imagination and when your kids have grasped the basics you can then think about a telescope and mastering that. At that point, the Universe will really open up for parent and child. So, what are you waiting for?