Stargazing is often seen as a romanticized pastime and many take advantage of how readily available it is to everyone. After sunset, taking a few steps outside, enters you into a world of science at a glance into the sky, allowing you to explore math, astronomy, the environment, and mythology all from your backyard. When in science class, many children are asked about their favorite thing to talk about in science, aside from dinosaurs, lots of children will pick space and schools will use that interest as a gateway to introduce topics such as gravity, forces, energy, light, color, and building scientific hypotheses. Unfortunately, that curiosity of Space is left in the classroom for children unless they are encouraged by their family to explore the night sky at home. Fortunately, there are many ways to encourage this curiosity through things families can do at home.
Children question lots of things as they start to explore their surroundings, these questions act as a catalyst for their brain to build observational and analytical skills as they age. From a young age, children will start questioning why they can’t go outside once it is dark outside, why does it get dark outside, and what lights up the sky in the morning and at night. They wonder how every night the Sun hides and the moon glows bright, and how only some stars are seen in the skies during certain times of the year. This is where most children will get an introduction to the sun, moon, moon phases, the solar system, stars, constellations, and space travel or satellites. Though this may seem to intimate to many parents who don’t feel prepared to guide their child’s interest in space, some key things may make it easier for the parents to help ignite curiosity and not snuff it out. Start by helping children identify the similarities and differences between the sun, moon, planets, and stars building on math concepts like counting stars, identifying shapes, learn about distances, and tracing patterns you can make a fun activity that will build children’s interest to learn more. It is great to take a marker board out with your family to start drawing constellations and reading the stories of mythology to boost literary interest and memorization of patterns.
Parents can be active in their child’s exploration of the stars and help instill an understanding of environmental awareness. Something that your entire family will notice is that night lights, especially in urban areas, create light pollution and that light pollution prevents us from being able to observe much of the night sky’s beauty. This light pollution will also cause harm to many other parts of the planet’s ecology. Light pollution will affect migratory birds causing them to become confused and break from their flight pattern, cause sea turtle to avoid beaches that are brightly lit, impact insect populations by causing them to be mesmerized with lights and starve and cause nocturnal animals to have abnormal biological rhythms due to not knowing when the sun rises or sets.
There are many benefits that families can gain from stargazing. It will impact many observational and analytical skills as children continue to learn in school. Stargazing will also help foster inspiration, imagination, and form a connection with nature for your family. Stargazing helps slow down and provides a sense of stillness that will benefit many families by bringing them together at the end of the day and enjoying relaxing time to focus on your family and watching children’s minds float off into space.
By: Olivia Parks