Tag Archives: astronomy books for kids

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For STEM Friday we are keeping with the astronomy theme with an amazing book about the universe written for young adults (ages 13+).

It is often difficult to find good nonfiction science books for young adults. By the time readers reach their teen years, if they are interested in science they are often forced to resort to reading books written for adults. That is why we were excited to find Our Universe Revealed: A Cosmic Exploration by E. L. Strauss, which targets this under-served age group.

Skimming through this book, the first thing you notice are the awe-inspiring illustrations.

milky-way-large( - Public Domain)

How can a reader not be enticed to want to explore the universe after looking at photographs of the Milky Way like this one?

Our understanding of the universe is changing rapidly. Strauss guides the reader through a thorough introduction by relating unfamiliar and complex topics to more familiar ones. For example, how do scientists study the history of space? Strauss explains that the processes of uncovering clues are similar to those used here on Earth in the field of archeology, and then gives specific examples.

Do you know what a magnetar is? What about degenerate matter or population III stars? If these terms are unfamiliar, this book will introduce you to them. Strauss, however, doesn't just string together vocabulary words. The author also explains how the concepts fit in the bigger picture. As a case in point, Strauss shows how our ability to create better technology to explore the universe has greatly increased our body of knowledge.

Although - as the book summary states - Our Universe Revealed is "aimed at bright, gifted, curious and creative teens," it is also likely to appeal to adults who want a clear understanding of some of the most cutting-edge concepts in astronomy today. Nothing expands your mind like exploring the cosmos and this book is a wonderful way to start.

Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Thinxygen; 1 edition (November 6, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0620683562
ISBN-13: 978-0620683562

Disclosure:  A .pdf was provided by the author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

Are your children interested in learning more about the physical sciences? We'll be adding a series of activities to explore:

  • Astronomy (today)
  • Meteorology
  • Earth Science
  • Physics
  • Chemistry

Astronomy is the study of objects and processes that occur out in space. Astronomy covers the moon, planets, the solar system, asteroids, comets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, etc.

Let's start our study with near objects.

moonset-peake(Photograph by Tim Peake of the European Space Agency Image Credit: ESA/NASA)

The Moon

Begin by observing the moon on a clear night, which will raise a child’s interest and start the questions flowing. Check the newspaper for the weather, phase of moon and local times when the moon will rise and set.

Try to find an area away from lights and look at the moon. Take a pair of binoculars or a telescope with you, if available (The moon is bright, so don’t stare at it with binoculars for too long).

Activity 1.  Making Craters

The most obvious features on the face of the moon are the impact craters. Children can create and study craters using a simple model.

Gather:

  • Flour
  • Powdered cocoa or cornmeal
  • Unbreakable pan
  • Marbles and/or rocks
  • Candy sprinkles (optional)
  • Newspaper or garbage bags (optional)

Find a level surface, preferably outside or indoors where a bit of flour won't cause a mess. Cover the surface with some newspaper or flat garbage bags to help with clean up. Fill a large pan (preferably unbreakable, such as aluminum or plastic) halfway with flour. If you want, you can also add a thin layer of candy sprinkles to represent other minerals present under the surface. Finally, gently add a thin layer of cocoa powder or cornmeal.

Have your kids drop various round objects into the flour. The results should be some interesting craters and splash patterns, which are the patterns of debris shot out of the crater with impact.

This video from NASA gives more complete details.

Related:

1. Outreach Resources from Night Sky Network, which include the following activities to download (may have to provide some information for access) :

  • Does the moon rotate?
  • Observing the Moon
  • Why does the moon have phases?
  • Why do eclipses happen?

2. World Space Week Heinlein Teacher Kit (direct link to .pdf)

3. Geology.com has an interactive map of the 50 largest impact craters on Earth.

The Solar System

The next step into astronomy is to study the planets and other objects in the solar system.

Activity 2:  Make a poster or model of the solar system.

One simple way to study all the planets is to create a mobile or poster of the solar system. How complicated a project this can be will depend on the age and interests of your child. Use your imagination and move beyond Styrofoam balls (which can be expensive).

Suggested materials:

  • Cloth
  • Salt clay or model magic
  • Paper maché
  • Yarn/string (see video below)
  • Balloons
  • Paper

How to make decorative balls out of yarn that could be used for a solar system model:


You can also purchase model kits made of various materials.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Related Resources:

Exploratorium has a calculator to determine the relative sizes and distances for a scale model.

The European Space Agency has an excellent set of lesson plans complete with full color images of objects in the solar system to download:  Our Solar System

The McDonald Observatory has a lesson on making a scale model of the solar system (direct .pdf link) to download (as well as many related lessons)

When the mobile/model is completed, ask some questions. Why do we have night and day? What is an eclipse? Why do we have seasons? A sophisticated model can help answer some of these questions.

Activity 3:  Outdoor Solar System Scale Models

Take a field trip to an outdoor scale model of the solar system. Wikimedia has a partial list of scale models found throughout the world.

In Arizona try:

  1. The Solar System Walk at the Environmental Education Center in Chandler, Arizona
  2. Display around the observatory at the Gilbert Riparian Preserve, Gilbert, Arizona.
  3. The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Do you know where there's a scale model of the solar system to explore? Please leave a comment.

Books about planets and the solar system

planet-books-button

Stars/Universe

It might seem like it would be difficult to study something as large and complex as the the universe, but there are actually many potential hands-on activities.

  1. Take a trip to a planetarium.
  2. Study dust
  3. Make your own galaxy
  4. Scale model of a black hole (advanced)
  5. Constellation Detective (direct link to .pdf)
  6. Build your own telescope, for example using this kit from Home Science Tools (I am not affiliated with this company)

Want to learn more? Khan Academy has video lessons about stars, black holes and galaxies.

Lists of related children's books at Science Books for Kids:

Children's books about stars and the universe.

stars-books-button

For National Poetry Month, try our list of Poetry Books about Space

space-poetry-for-kids

 

Physical Science Investigations

This week is filled with special celebrations. Wednesday was Earth Day, today is Arbor Day (see last Friday's post for suggestions for marking Arbor Day), and tomorrow, April 25, 2015, is Astronomy Day. What a great week to get out and celebrate nature and science!

Today, let's get ready for Astronomy Day.

What better way to explore the universe than through a good book? To get started, we have a middle grade nonfiction title: DK Eyewitness Books: Universe.

You are probably familiar with DK's Eyewitness series. The books are perfect for visual learners because they include fabulous illustrations against non-distracting white backgrounds. Also, the text is broken into well-organized chunks, allowing the reader to quickly access pertinent information without feeling overwhelmed.

This title starts with overviews of the history of our discoveries and also some of the chemistry and physics behind those discoveries. It then discusses some of the more familiar aspects of the universe, such as the moon, planets and solar system before moving into nebulae, star cycles, black holes, etc. In the back matter is a fact-filled discovery timeline of many important events in the field of astronomy.

We are rapidly learning more about our universe and a fresh new title from DK is a great way to keep current.

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: DK Children (March 10, 2015)
ISBN-10: 146543187X
ISBN-13: 978-1465431875

Reminder: 

The children's picture book, A Place in Space, will be available for free to download at Amazon tomorrow. See our previous post for information and a link.

Looking for more children's books about astronomy? Try our lists organized by age level and genre at Science Books for Kids:

planet-books-buttonList of children's books about the planets, solar system and lunar landing

space-poetry-for-kidsChildren's Poetry Books about Space

 

stars-books-buttonAnd our list of books that explore beyond the solar system (under construction)

Do you have a favorite children's book about astronomy? Please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

Happy Arbor Day!

 

Disclosures: The book above was from my local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.