Saturday, June 16, 2012

Astronomy for Tots- Saturday Link Up

We own one of these do-hickeys.  It's supposed to be a sleep device for infants, but it stirred ideas in me about taking astronomy in college (not to mention that I live with a Planetary Scientist).

What this do-hickey really is is three lights underneath a plastic dome that has holes in it.  The neat thing about this device is that it has constellations on it so you can practice star-gazing/identifying constellations with your littles.

We've been using it to count the various stars, talk about colors (real stars come in various colors), and light pollution.  The light pollution was particularly fun for my toddler.  Since we were playing with it during the day, we used our window-less bathroom to create an artificially dark environment.  Then he would flip on the lights and we'd talk about how the stars would disappear.  He'd turn the lights off and we discussed how they reappeared.  We also opened the door to varying degrees to watch the stars fade.

We haven't talked about constellations yet.  That would be something that we'd tackle when he's more preschool age.  If you have a low enough ceiling or use the wall, you can have your littles draw the constellation.  This is sort of a pre-courser to taking them outside and actually looking at the constellations. 

We can, however, show how the lights get smaller the closer you are to a wall and then bigger the further away they are (diffraction).  You can totally get into how light works with littles using flash lights, objects, and mirrors but that's a whole other blog post.

You're probably thinking.  Wait.  I have to go buy one of these things to experiment with?  No.  You can make one.

Shoe box or tissue box
Several flash lights (I recommend 3-5)
A screw driver or sharpened pencil
Different colors of finger nail polish (I recommend blue, red, orange, and yellow to represent the basic stellar classification colors)
Star Chart or use Sky View Cafe

1) Take apart your flashlight and remove the front lenses.  Leave one flashlight as is.  Take the other lenses and paint each one a different color (blue, red, orange, or yellow).  Set aside to dry.

2) After reviewing a star chart, mark on your shoe box or tissue box several constellations (it doesn't have to be perfect). Remember you can use the sides of the box.

3) Take your screw driver or sharpened pencil and drive in holes where you marked your stars. 

4) Once your lenses are dry, put your flashlight back together.  When you turn it on, it should now shine a different color.

5) Have your child pick a flashlight and put it under your box to illuminate the stars.  Have fun changing the colors and discussing stellar classification (and how the colors mean how hot each star is).  You can also talk about the size of the stars too.  (If you want you can poke different size holes in the box to represent different size stars.  My do-hickey doesn't do that.)

Hope that you enjoyed it!  Be sure to read the other links.

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