Explore the science of space through stargazing

Learn more about how you can work with youth to learn and understand science by making use of the night sky.

Michigan State University Extension children and youth educators know that stars in a night sky can bring wonder and amazement to young viewers. They can begin to imagine the vastness of the universe. They can develop an interest in the science of space! They may continue stargazing as a hobbyist or decide on a future career as an astronomer. Provide youth the opportunity to observe the night sky to explore these possibilities.

Providing children opportunities to stargaze is also important due to the fact that the majority of them cannot routinely see the night sky. According to Kids National Geographic, stars cannot be as easily viewed due to light pollution. As we become more urban and install and use more lights during darkness, this excess or misdirected light interferes with our ability to see the stars in the night sky. Scientists now say that nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population can no longer see the Milky Way. Research with children the possible places for stargazing.

On clear nights, observers can use their naked eyes to see planets, stars and constellations. Use NASA’s monthly star finder to identify and find stars in the sky. Plan to observe stars and constellations during different months. Ask the children to compare what happened to the location and position of the stars and constellations from month to month. Work with them to develop a model of the earth, sun and other planets, so that they can see where they are located. Assist them in placing constellations on their bedroom ceiling, so that they can orient themselves in the night sky. Guide them to explore how stars were used centuries ago for travel and how/if they may be used today. The Cornell University has a “Curious About Astronomy?” website that contains many stargazing discussion points for beginners.

Check out Michigan’s 4-H Youth Development aerospace and rocketry resources to find organizations and opportunities to explore more space adventures. An Aerospace Adventure Curriculum Series is also available.

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