My kids and I recently completed a semester-long unit on Astronomy. Judging by how much my kids enjoyed it, this was our best unit yet! Our Astronomy Unit Study focused on:
astronomical observations and field trips
biographies of famous astronomers
general astronomy books
astronomy-related movies, music, and documentaries
This combination of resources seemed to work particularly well, and really sparked my children's enthusiasm. In this post, I will detail all of the resources and books we used, to make it easy for you to have your own astronomy unit study, too!
Astronomical Observations and Field Trips
One of the best things about studying astronomy with kids is that some of the field trips can happen in your own back yard. With a little bit of online research, you can find out which astronomical events will be happening over the course of your Astronomy Unit Study. Additionally, you may be able to attend local astronomy events hosted by your local astronomical society or university. Our field trips included:
stargazing to find the constellations and planets in our own back yard and while going out for walks after dark
getting up in the middle of the night to drive out to a very dark location where we could observe a meteor shower
observing a lunar eclipse
visiting nearby observatories
night sky telescope observations through the local university and astronomical society - this was especially worthwhile because we were able to learn from people who were passionate and knowledgeable about astronomy
A few helpful resources for astronomy field trips are:
Earth Sky - This website shows objects of interests for every night.
Sky At A Glance - This website has week-by-week information for what to look for in the night sky.
Sky and Telescope - This website has detailed lists of upcoming meteor showers, eclipses, comets, and much more.
Star Walk app - This app makes it easy to find constellations, stars, and planets of interest, plus other objects of interest such as the International Space Station, satellites, etc.
Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey - This book is a perfect first reference for finding the constellations in the sky throughout the year. Beware that, because the planets move throughout the years, older editions of this book may be outdated.
The Stars by H.A. Rey - This book gives a more detailed look at the constellations and stars. Beware that, because the planets move throughout the years, older editions of this book may be outdated.
Biographies of Famous Astronomers
With read-aloud biographies, we were able to get up-close and personal with the people who have furthered humanity's understanding of the universe. Biographies are one of the best ways to incorporate history into our learning, as they make the events in history have more meaning when seen within the context of real people's lives.
I have included age codes to make it clear for which ages each book will be best suited. The age codes are: C = Children 4-9; Y = Youth 9-12; YA = Young Adults 13-15; A = Adults and the Later Teen Years (16-18)
(In chronological order)
AUDIOBOOK: Great Astronomers by Robert Ball (Y, YA, A) (FREE on Librivox. This book gives fascinating insights into the lives of great astronomers, many of whom we'd never even heard of! It does a good job of explaining the astronomical discoveries of each astronomer. The science in this book is challenging, even for me, but nonetheless my kids enjoyed listening to this audiobook with me while driving in the car. We listened to one chapter per week.)
Nicolaus Copernicus: The Earth Is a Planet by Dennis Brindell Fradin (C, Y)
Galileo's Journal 1609-1610 by Jeanne Pettenati (C, Y)
Along Came Galileo by Jeanne Bendick (C, Y, YA)
I, Galileo by Bonnie Christensen (Y, YA)
Starry Messenger by Peter Sis (Y, YA)
Newton's Rainbow by Kathryn Lasky (C, Y, YA)
Giants of Science: Isaac Newton by Kathleen Krull (Y, YA, A)