Beginning Astronomy for Kids

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Beginning Astronomy for Kids
Astronomy (starry night image by Stacey Lynn Payne from Fotolia.com)

Astronomy is the science of celestial bodies, such as planets, stars, comets and galaxies. Studies show astronomy is one of the most popular courses among college students. To help encourage kids' interest in the subject, there are several astronomy resources available to teachers and parents.

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Significance

According to two separate studies published in the Astronomy Education Review, 250,000 college students nationwide enrol in introductory college-level astronomy courses each year. About 10 per cent of college students will take an astronomy course at some point during their college education. Additionally, the number of places where kids can learn about astronomy is on the rise. Today there are more than 800 planetariums in the country, according to the International Planetarium Society. That's up from about 500 planetariums that were built beginning in the late 1950s.

Teachers and Astronomy

Teachers looking for a hands-on approach to teaching astronomy should consider programs in which schools partner will working scientists. For example, Project ASTRO, a national program of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, connects teachers in grades four to nine with volunteer astronomers in their area. Under the program, an astronomer agrees to visit her assigned classroom at least four times a year, serving as a science mentor to students.

Parents and Astronomy

Parents can influence their kids' interest in astronomy by encouraging them to attend college, according to research by Michigan State University professor Jon Miller. His study found that among kids whose parents encourage college enrolment, 41 per cent of students plan to pursue science majors. Keeping astronomy books in the home can also benefit kids. Research reported in the journal "Research in Social Stratification and Mobility," found that children from homes in which science and history books are accessible are in school for three years longer than kids from homes with no books.

Astronomy Activities Online

For kids who love computers, there are several fun, safe places online where they can study astronomy. The website, Kids Astronomy, has interactive science activities, including a selection of astronomy games, jokes and puzzles. The site also has a kids' astronomy dictionary, plus pages where kids can read about planets and spacecraft.

NASA also has astronomy websites for kids. The StarChild site features child-friendly information about the solar system, the sun and the moon. For kids ages 14 and up, NASA's Imagine the Universe! site includes information about satellites and scientist biographies.

Astronomy Day

Kids interested in astronomy can celebrate the science with their local communities on Astronomy Day. During the biannual event sponsored by the Astronomical League, astronomy clubs, museums and planetariums host a variety of activities and events to promote the science. For an Astronomy Day activity book full of ideas on how adults and kids can take part in the event, visit The Astronomical League website, astroleague.org.

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