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Bright Idea for Kids: Stargazing

Bright Idea for Kids: Stargazing

I have a book titled I Love Dirt: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonder of Nature, written by Jennifer Ward (Trumpeter Books, 2008). It’s a sweet and swell little book that goes beyond the nature activities one might expect. (Case in point: A section on watching ants, which I will post soon.) The chapter on stargazing promises to stimulate “observation skills, infinite wonder, and imagination.” Hard to go wrong with that! Here’s how:

Stargazing is a wonderful way to relax and let any tensions from the day slip away, far away. Provide your child with an opportunity to imagine and wonder infinitely as she gazes at the night sky, her thoughts lost in space. Sit outside at night with your child, look upward, and let the moon and the stars do the rest.

Invite the shining star in your life to join you outside to watch the sunset, and while you relax together and watch the daylight slip into night, hunt for the first visible star in the darkening sky. The first person to spy a star gets to make a wish! Find the second visible star and wish on it too. Find the third, and the fourth, and the fifth visible stars. Make a wish for every star you see.

As the sky darkens, continue stargazing with your child. Do all stars look the same? How are they different? (Some are brighter than others. Some look white or yellow. Some even look red.)

Scientists who study the stars know that a star’s color reflects its temperature. Blue stars are the hottest, whereas red stars are the coolest. Have a stellar scavenger hunt with your child as you count how many red stars you can find in the sky, and ask how many superbright white or blue stars are there.

Ask your child what she wonders about the stars. Focus and gaze. Consider how far away each star is.

Stars are enormous. Our sun, the star closest to Earth, is just an average-sized star. It’s not the biggest star or the smallest. If the sun were hollow, 1 million balls the size of the Earth could fit inside it.

If stars are so huge, why do they look so small? Try this experiment with your child: Find a small to medium-sized object, such as a rock, and hold it up for your child to see. Ask her to watch the object as you continue holding it up while walking away. walk and walk, creating a distance between your child and you. The farther away you are, the smaller the object will look. It works the same way with stars. They appear small, even though they are truly enormous, because they are so far away.

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

42 comments

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3:37AM PST on Jan 30, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

9:36AM PST on Dec 2, 2012

thanks

8:19AM PDT on Jun 12, 2012

This is the kind of thing beautiful memories are made of. Stargazing nourishes the heart and soul and children will always remember time spent as a family doing this, no matter how old they grow or how far away they move in the course of life. Even if you don't have children, this is a wonderful experience to share with your spouse, friends, neighbors, or even just to enjoy with the peaceful companionship of your dog or cat. In one of the opening lines of his famous essay, Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote "If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and stare." How blessed we are that they're shining every night for us.

11:35AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

noted

8:15AM PDT on Apr 29, 2012

stargazing is not new...

4:24PM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

The night sky stimulates the imagination and puts everything into clarifying perspective.

3:12AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Thanks for reviving a memory. In the eighties we used to stay, for a few weeks, in a field in Connemara. There were few houses nearby and nobody, then, was into floodlights,so the skies were very dark. Our small children, allowed to stay up late, cloaked in blankets, loved watching the shooting stars of the Perseid shower in mid August.

7:47AM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

interesting

9:16AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

I love the heavens and I love the oceans, the seas and life in it, and I love earth, the beauty of the four seasons and what they offer, in their rich colors and perfumed flowers, pure white fluffy snow in the Winter time, lovely heat in the summer and the greenery we can enjoy, mountains, forest, beaches, rain to water plants different animals of all kinds, Wow, what a thing to see. Sometimes I wish I could actually see the galaxy with my own eyes. I often wonder up to this day, what is beyond those stars, how big is space, is there life on other planets. I wish I would go up in a mountain and camp out with a small fire outside and just sit there and look out at the stars and feel like, I can almost touch them. Let the children enjoy the heavens. It brings joy and amazement to their little hearts just like it did for me. We can run away with all kinds of imaginations about the heavens.

6:07PM PDT on Mar 29, 2012

Thanks.

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