Friday, August 12th, 2011
Recently I discussed the virtues of encouraging your child to be a natural scientist using nothing more than their eyes. That’s right, no technology needed – just a little guidance on what to look for. Dr. Juan Ivaldi has alerted me that there is an opportunity to “share the sky with kids” and search for the annual Perseid meteor shower this weekend. It’s the peak of an annual opportunity to see something amazing up in the sky.
Dr. Ivaldi has posted a terrific description of the Perseid meteor shower along with tips on what to look for, how to look for it, and when to do this. Key things to know:
- This weekend (the 12th and the 13th) is the best time for observation
- You do not need any equipment
- Both late night (if you have a night bird) or early morning (if you have an early riser) are good times for searching and viewing
I encourage you to check out Dr. Ivaldi’s blog and share this experience with your child. Part of the exercise is to promote the natural scientist in children by attuning them to the idea that there are special days and times in the year for observation. Part of the exercise is to encourage their curiosity about nature and the universe. Part of the exercise is to spend time together outside and stare into space and create a bit of magical thinking.
When I was growing up, the idea of learning about space was one of the most appealing things for a child. TV shows were dedicated to it (my favorite growing up was Fireball XL5). Science was in the news because it sparked a sense of wonder. And today, people like me can think back to their childhood and remember what it was like to watch an astronaut walk on the moon.
Happy sky watching!
Friday, July 22nd, 2011
There have been many laments by educators, psychologists, and pediatricians that children do not explore nature enough these days. A recent feature at Parents.com talked about the unique learning opportunities parents can give their kids by visiting nature places. But you can also find opportunities to stimulate your child’s scientific thinking right at home, just by looking up at the sky.
Dr. Juan Ivaldi, a chemist, author, and astronomy educator, has recently written a wonderful piece called “Family Sky Fun: Five Ways to Have Fun With the Sky” on his blog devoted to essential astronomy. He suggests five interactive ways for parents to explore the sky, both day and night, with their children. These include:
- Making a human sundial (all you need is a sunny day, a piece of chalk if you have a sidewalk or paved driveway, or a stick or rock if you are in your backyard or a field)
- Tracking the phases of the moon (it only takes a few minutes per day for about a month)
- Holding in your hand the elements that make up the moon (hint: you just need dirt and rocks)
- Finding the brightest star in the sky (you can combine this with eating s’mores if you like)
- Locating constellations (particularly the Big Dipper and Orion)
You can read the details of how to do these things with your kids on Dr. Ivaldi’s blog. What’s really great about his suggestions is that they:
- Promote parent-child interaction
- Get kids (and parents) outside
- Train young eyes to perceive the natural world
Every child experiences a sense of wonder about nature. So while buying science-based toys and visiting museums are terrific ways to expose your child to science, there is no substitute for getting children outside and giving them ways to explore the world. After all, that’s what scientists do!