Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sun Prints, Skygazing, and Space

 We are finished our space unit.  Finally.  Phew.  Don't get me wrong, I really get a kick out of Ella enjoying a unit like this, but I've had enough and I'm glad to share the end of our projects and wrap this puppy up.  Really, I didn't think I'd last this long.  I am so not a space gal. 

 Remember our Sun Tea and Tea Party?  Well, we also studied the sun's power by making sun prints.  You can buy special sun print paper, but I didn't.  I'm cheap like that.  Black construction paper works just fine, even if the effect isn't quite as dramatic.  We put them out in a sunny spot one morning with a few small objects found around the yard, then we went a step further.  We painted on them with sunscreen to show them how the stuff works and why we use it.  It worked pretty well as a demonstration, because the sunscreen actually blocked the sun better than the leaf,  so it also gave a little demonstration of how your clothes don't always block the sun's rays completely either. 

See the leaf at the bottom right of the face Ella drew?
The little circles at the bottom right were acorns.

The week before we went to the Space Center, we started our skygazing.  I printed a Free Sky Map from and we watched the video on Amazing Space: Tonight's Sky.  GREAT, resource, by the way.  We'll be revisiting throughout the year as the sky changes and there are new things to see.  Then, on cue, I found this message from our local science museum via facebook:
"The very bright object in the SE in early evening is Jupiter. Tonight you have a great chance to see all 4 of its large moons with just binoculars! They will look like 4 stars in a line, 3 below & left of Jupiter and 1 above & to the right. Look early in the evening & again near midnight, & you may notice 2 of them have changed positions slightly because of their orbital motion."
Perfect!  We ran outside with our binoculars to look for it that night, and to our surprise found the planet and its moons fairly easily.  For about two weeks we put Harper to bed then ran outside each night to see what new constellations and stars we could identify.  I have to admit that even I had fun. 

Jumbo Book of Space, The (Jumbo Books)On the book front, we checked out just about every astronomy book we could find, and there were so many good ones.  I used  The Jumbo Book of Space a lot, mostly because it had some good explanations and projects, and I liked the way it organized the info.  There are so many new books out there, and there are some really gorgeous ones too. 

Look to the StarsI was also glad we found Look to the Stars, by Buzz Aldrin.  It was a nice summary of the history of space exploration, perfect as a precursor to our NASA field trip. 

The Universe: Our Solar SystemWe watched several of the playlists over on the Science Channel's website, and we checked out The Universe: Our Solar System from the library.  Like the books, there are so many great videos out there.  You'll also find a bunch on  I have a long list in my queue there, including episodes of Carl Sagan's Cosmos and other episodes of The Universe.  Gotta love the internet. 

Next up . . . Egypt!

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