This winter we’ve spent time learning and exploring our solar system as part of our homeschooling and just for fun. It began innocently enough, we were learning about Galileo and decided to explore a little more…a month later we emerged from our studies packed to the gills with star and planet knowledge!
Winter is a wonderful time of year to begin this kind of exploration, the early darkness allows even younger children to witness the wonders of the heavens before bedtime calls and the cold increases visibility. On a cold evening you can see stars and planets without the aid of a telescope and constellations can be seen with the naked eye. Though further exploration with a telescope would be wonderful you don’t need one to begin appreciating the marvels of the night sky.
If you’d like to begin your journey by looking back through time, as we did, Galileo for Kids is a great place to start. This looks at Galileo’s life and the way his ideas and theories revolutionized science and the study of the universe. Most of the book is more appropriate for older elementary children but the experiments can be enjoyed by everyone. For younger children the Animated Hero Classics provides differentiated materials from coloring pages to writing and word searches.
After this we explored the stars and constellations through the ancient stories that have been told about them through the centuries. For this we used Jaqueline Mitton’s wonderful books Zoo in the Sky, Once Upon a Starry Night and Kingdom of the Sun. These tell the amazing stories with absolutely beautiful illustrations that capture the imagination. Another book we’ve enjoyed is the Glow In The Dark Constellations, this gives great information about the stars and constellations and includes seasonal star maps for more dedicated star gazes.
As well as learning the stories of the stars we also learned the science using the best that modern technology has to offer. Our favorite stargazing app is Starwalk, not so much as app as a window into the universe. This allows you to simply point your device at the sky and they you can learn about the stars and planets you are looking at. One of the great features is that you can look at the stars while the sun is up!
Lastly there are some wonderful notebooking and lapbooking resources to help you create a permanent record of your universal wanderings. Homeschool share has a great trio of lapbooks that explore the stars, planets and the moon. These were great fun and were enjoyed by both my 8 & 4 year old boys. We also did a mini lapbook on the moon found at here. We also made a large model of our galaxy using the cutouts I found here, though we ended up with 2 versions as my youngest wasn’t so worried about scientific accuracy.
As well as all of this we made flashlight constellation cards, watched youtube videos about finding the north star, listened to Magic Treehouse stories and imagined ourselves as space travelers through play (for those links and more head over to my Pinterest board, Exploring the Universe). There really is no end to the activities and fun to be had and I really look forward to learning more alongside my boys. It truly is the journey of a lifetime.