Older Kids Astronomy Outline (Steve)
Updated January 2, 2005
Special note to parents. READ THIS PLEASE:
This is my reference outline. It describes the topics I hope
to cover but is not intended to be used directly by the students. Most
of this will be translated into age appropriate conversation and activities.
Some of the kid appropriate web links below will be suggested or assigned for
the students. The overview
of astronomy link is excellent because there is a beginner thru advanced
option on each page so that a user can choose the level of detail they wish to
We will make actual observations during visits or
potentially sleepovers in our observatory at “the rock” so that we can spend
time observing and recording after dark (evening or early morning). Observatory
visits are intended to be fun and educational.
The approach is to learn astronomy as humans did, by first
making naked eye observations and assumptions, then moving on to how we learned
more, understanding what has been learned, and making observations today.
31% of the public believes in astrology including 36% of women and 43%
of those aged 25 to 29 but only 17% of people aged 65 and over, and 25% of men.
Creationism: (sources 1, 2,
Only about a third of Americans believe that Charles Darwin's theory of
evolution is a scientific theory that has been well supported by the evidence.
Forty-five percent of Americans also believe that God created human beings
pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago when the earth was
As the polls above indicate, very substantial numbers of
people believe in astrology and creationism. In my presentation, I do NOT
support these beliefs. I do NOT attack them. I mention them only in
passing. They will NOT be major discussion points, but I want to be sure
that parents know in advance how I will represent these beliefs.
- I clearly demonstrate that the signs of the zodiac are
merely human “connect the dots” contrivances originating thousands of years
ago (no one knows exactly when) when we grossly misunderstood astronomy,
that the earth and moon is about 4.5 billion years old, that most of the
stars and objects that we look at in telescopes generated the starlight that
we see today hundreds of thousands if not billions of years ago, and that
the big bang occurred about 13.7 billion years ago. This is consistent
with modern astronomy.
- To create a timescale for astronomy and to put human astronomical
achievements and events in timescale perspective, I matter-of-fact define
human ancestry as between 200,000 and 2
million years depending on how you define humans. Many of my resources
and the resources found on the internet that refer to the history
of astronomy make comparable references.
I bring this up now, in advance, because there is no other
way for me to teach astronomy. The science of astronomy is based on these
premises and that is how I much teach it. I respect the beliefs of others, that
is why I mention the positions I will take in advance so that you as a parent
can make responsible choices. Comments or suggestions
to me are very welcome.
Develop an overview
of astronomy, its history and importance through time
Develop concepts, skills and vocabulary necessary to
understand the science of astronomy and differentiate astronomy from celestial
Create a personal timeline log of astronomical events,
people and discoveries
Use online research resources effectively
Make basic (but still amazing) astronomical observations
using available binoculars, telescopes, computer simulations, online resources
Post our progress and pictures online (Waller homeschool
website) for examination and commentary by family and friends
The list below is not in session order. These topics will be
introduced as appropriate, starting from basic naked-eye observations and early
human historical assumptions, then moving forward through the history of
astronomy to today’s understandings, but all of the topics will be covered
The exception will be the
opening exercise of viewing Comet
Machholz which will not wait. It must be observed and discussed in early
Age of universe
Astronomical Timeline spanning astronomical prehistory
Human Astronomical timeline
Combine the two above to illustrate scale of modern astronomy
Millimeter, Centimeter, Meter
Create your own
How many constellations?
How they move
Northern vs. southern names
What is it?
How does it differ from astronomy
Zodiac (what and where are they?)
Light year (as measurement of distance)
Degrees/Hours/Minutes (as geometric measurements)
Magnitude (brightness of objects)
Click the yellow flashing square in the top right corner to download the
free Java virtual machine.
The comet is predicted to come closest to Earth on the night of Jan. 5-6,
2005, when it will be just 32 million miles (51 million kilometers) away. On
the evening of Jan. 7, it will conveniently pass just a couple of degrees to
the west of the famous Pleiades star cluster.
Comet Machholz will reach perihelion -- its point closest to the Sun -- on
Jan. 24, when it will be just under 112 million miles (179 million kilometers)
from that blazing furnace. The comet will be more or less opposite the Sun all
during this "flyby", and thus should be easily visible in a dark sky
Determine which are visible from our observing site
Make and record observations
Post images online
Earth and moon
Astronomy vs astrology
What and where is it?
How does it move?
Where are we in it?
Which stars are in it?
What is the closest star?
What is the farthest star?
The center of the galaxy is in which constellation?
What is outside the MW?
How things work in solar system naked eye
Sun as a star
Locations / orbits