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Teaching Astronomy to Kids
They actually allow me into the
The basics of teaching to children.
My Astronomy Minicourse Curriculum in
Three Acts
Demonstration of the materials and
– A mini minicourse.
Teaching astronomy minicourse for several
Various course lengths
– 3-day course
– 1-day course
– “special” visits to classes.
Various grade levels
– 1st grade through 5th grade
Remember History Class?
 Kids get bored.
– MTV generation.
– Standing in front of a class and rambling on for hours about
obscure or even tangible astronomical concepts will not work.
 Keep the subject matter varied.
– Hop between slides and activities.
– Use a question/answer approach during the slides.
• Keeps the kids involved even when they aren’t gluing stuff together.
 Don’t try to explain cosmology.
– Keep it simple.
– The goal (for me at least) is to expose kids to observational
astronomy since this is something they can DO and not have to
My Minicourse Curriculum
 Title: Hands-on Amateur Astronomy
 Description:
– Students will learn about amateur astronomy in
three hands-on sessions. In one session,
students will build their own planisphere and
learn how to use it to find constellations. In
another session, students will build their own
refracting telescope and learn how to use it to
observe the moon and planets. And, weather
permitting, students will learn how to safely
observe sunspots and how to record their
observations. Students should bring glue and
scissors and coats and hats to class so we can
go outside if sunny.
Notes about Sessions
Each session takes about 45 minutes.
Sessions may not go in the order given
since the solar session will take precedence
due to weather.
– But, I like to do the planisphere project before
the telescope project.
My 3-Day Minicourse
 Day 1 – Constellations
– Stellarium (
• Ask what constellation it is.
• Point out interesting aspects.
– Pointer to North Star
– Mizar and Alcor
– Build Planisphere
• Explain why it’s useful.
• Step-by-step build.
• Teach how to use.
– See what constellations are visible that night.
– What constellations are visible on their birthdays.
3-Day Minicourse Curriculum
 Day 2 – Solar Session
– Will move this session around depending on weather.
– Start out in class explaining solar viewing safety.
• Never point a telescope or binoculars at sun.
• Explain that we are using special filter equipment to make it
safe and that they don’t have this special equipment.
– Hand out Solar Observing Log
• A sheet of paper with a circle on it and spaces to put date,
time, place type of information.
– Head outside and set up telescope.
• I’ll ask the teacher to get the kids ready while I set up the
• I use a projection system since it allows more than one
student to look at once.
3-Day Minicourse Curriculum
 Day 3 – Build a telescope
– Powerpoint of different types of telescopes.
• Use the skinny glass vs bowl analogy.
• Radio telescopes are neat since they don’t look like
– Build the scopes according to the instructions.
• But along the way show how the objective lense doesn’t
magnify much but the eyepiece does.
• Things are upside down/backwards
• Teach them how to focus the telescopes.
– Powerpoint of pretty space objects – time permitting.
– Hand out list of objects to look at with their telescope.
• I have a rudimentary handout I made and give to the kids.
1-Day Version
Constellation tour
Build planisphere
Telescope slides
Build telescopes
Pretty picture slides (if time permits)
TOTAL TIME: about 1.5 hours.
Constellation slides
“Build” planisphere
Telescope slides
“Build” telescope
Pretty picture slides
More Information
– Description of course materials.
– Downloadable zip file with all the materials.