Studying The Sky
Studying the stars and night sky may seem mystical and challenging, but in reality, it is one of the simplest and rewarding lessons we can create! Today I’m sharing our latest winter sky unit study and the resources we used to create an engaging and fulfilling hand-on learning experience.
The easiest thing we can do is to step outside and look up. As parents and home educators, teaching observation skills is a life-long investment that will continue to benefit our children in multiple ways. They will be more aware, more curious and safer as they learn to observe their surroundings. These habits provide opportunities for learning, independence and personal growth on a large scale. Providing the environment for our children to ‘look, ask, learn, and know’ empowers them and encourages them to continue down a path of self-led learning.
The core nature curriculum we use is Exploring Nature With Children from Raising Little Shoots. Each week is a different theme and topic with suggested reading, poetry and activities. We received a telescope for Christmas and it just so happened the first week of the year in ENWC is studying the winter sky! I gathered several resources that I’ve made as well as my favorites from independent content creators and the kids and I had so much fun exploring the night sky together. I want to emphasize that no child is too young or too old to learn about the sky. There is information and activities available for every age level, so don’t be dissuaded from trying something new together. You can incorporate natural science, reading, writing, math, art, and handicrafts within this single unit study!
Some resources that we use for astronomy studies are pictured above: (top left-right) Firefly Nature School lesson guides, Know The Stars by H.A. Rey, Constellations Of The Night Sky bundle in my shop, (bottom left-right) Full Moon Guide from The Silvan Reverie, Phases Of The Moon bundle in my shop, Phases Of The Moon wooden discs from Hope Learning Toys, Soltice and Equinox guides from Twig & Moth.
First, we took a look at the stars with our naked eye and dove into winter constellations. It’s simple enough to create a dot-to-dot for younger kids, counting stars activities, and plotting points of stars on a grid chart for older kids. We started by learning about the Winter Hexagon which is an asterism for 6 main stars in the Northern Hemisphere during this season. I marked the stars and their names on some craft paper and let my son draw the lines in between. Then we studied the constellations that are associated with each of the 6 main stars. River chose to draw and write the name of Orion and Taurus, which led to reading the Greek myth about the warrior and the bull. While my son and I labeled this poster, my younger daughter stamped some silvery stars and played with her wooden Harmony Stars from Imaginations Unbound.
One of favorite resources for enrichment and handicrafts is Rooted Childhood, and it just so happened that January’s collection included a constellation handicraft and lunar activities. We tried our hand at embroidery (which I had been holding off on because I felt the kids were too young) and they turned out beautifully! I stitched the Winter Hexagon and it’s constellations and each of my children chose their favorite winter constellation to embroider. This was an incredible craft for them to try and I am quite embarrassed that I thought they couldn’t or shouldn’t try it! Children always amaze me by what they are capable of if we just allow them the freedom to try.
Next, we found a free printable online to create our own star wheel! This was simple cutting exercise for both kids and now we have a wonderful resource for star-gazing year round!
The simplest object to spy in the sky is the moon, and week 2 of both January’s Exploring Nature With Children and Rooted Childhood January Collection is a lunar study! Using our phases of the moon bundle and discs, we plot the shape of the moon as we see it in our Lunar Log (available in my shop). This allows for observation and internalization of cyclical activities in nature. Natural cycles are important to learn and understand as they are the basis for much of our lives! This skill is applicable in so many ways and creates a connection between life and education.
Rooted Childhood includes a Lunar Walk and activities to Follow The Lunar Cycle and we read from our favorite nature poetry collection called I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree by Fiona Waters and Frann Preston-Gannon. This title includes a seasonal nature-inspired poem for each and every day of the year! It’s a wonderful new addition to our daily rhythm and makes it easy to incorporate poetry, reading, and writing/copywork to any unit study.
To incorporate math and round out our Lunar unit study, Roo graphed inscribed circles and made them into the phases of the moon! We used the Ruler & Compass book by Andrew Sutton from Imagine Childhood. Math is my son’s favorite subject so I’m always looking for creative ways to include it in any study or lesson that we’re doing.
I hope this encourages you to step outside and look up! Simply being outside inspires curiosity and questioning which leads to natural learning. Let me know in the comments below if you use any of these resources and if you have any additional recommendations for me to scoop up! Happy stargazing!