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Hi all! I teach Kindergarten and the extent of me covering space science is just making sure the students know that the sun and moon are always in the sky, no matter if it's day or night. This is a difficult concept for the students to grasp because they can't figure out how the sun is in the sky, even at night. I have to explain to them that the Earth rotates and the sun is just visible to the other part of the world. This lesson always cracks me up but can be a bit frustrating as well. They are better at "seeing" the moon in the day, because sometimes the moon is totally visible during the day. 4 and 5 year olds are the best to teach science too - always asking "why?"
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Hi - I could relate to your post on teaching Space to the younger students. I taught a Space unit last year to first and second graders. The second graders were getting it, but we did tons of hands on things and tons of songs and dance and demonstrations of space concepts. Although the first graders were not as secure in their knowledge and understandings, they did love the topic and were always really engaged. At the end, when we conducted our assessments, I think they all really got some core concepts very well. We immersed ourselves in the unit for a few months though and that helped! Thanks for sharing your thoughts - I could relate!
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Hi! I remember having to teach kindergarten students about celestial objects in the day and night sky. It is a very hard concept for the students to understand how the Earth rotates around the and and that they moon rotates around the moon. I give you credit for teaching your students this concept because I would only focus on the objects they could see. I tried to explain about the sun and the moon, but they didn't seem to understand. Glad to know that another teacher had the same problem.
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Looking at the night and day sky and having young students wonder about what they are seeing is the beginning of inquiry. Why and how come?
It might be good to see the distinction between students wondering and their exposure to phenomenon such as where the sun at night 'goes' and what , at any given age they can understand these concepts
For me it comes with determining when do students 'own the understanding' and what does that entail?
I'd probably ask them questions about what they think and how it fits into their evolving understanding of what is in the sky.
So before you delve into explanations, find out what their ideas are about the sky.
Here is an NSTA Collection
Earth, Sun, and Moon: Elementary
Resources for teaching concepts for elementary students and teachers
My best to you, Arlene JL
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
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Another good source of information is the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) and their science literacy concept maps
Here is the the map for the Solar System
http://strandmaps.nsdl.org/?id=SMS-MAP-1282'' target="_blank">http://strandmaps.nsdl.org/?id=SMS-MAP-1282' target="_blank">http://strandmaps.nsdl.org/?id=SMS-MAP-1282
In the upper left corner in every map is a section on student learning which discusses student preconceptions and misconceptions
Research on Student Learning from NSDL Science Literacy Map : Solar System
[i]"The ideas "the sun is a star" and "the earth orbits the sun" appear counter-intuitive to elementary-school students.  The ideas "the sun is a star" and "the earth orbits the sun" and are not likely to be believed or even understood in elementary grades.  Whether it is possible for elementary students to understand these concepts even with good teaching needs further investigation. 
Explanations of the day-night cycle, the phases of the moon, and the seasons are very challenging for students. To understand these phenomena, students should first master the idea of a spherical earth, itself a challenging task.  Similarly, students must understand the concept of "light reflection" and how the moon gets its light from the sun before they can understand the phases of the moon. Finally, students may not be able to understand explanations of any of these phenomena before they reasonably understand the relative size, motion, and distance of the sun, moon, and the earth." 
My best, Arlene JL
I think it is a good time to introduce science concepts to children at any age. I have a two year old son and when he ask me questions about nature I don’t ever hesitate to give him a scientific explanation. For instance, just recently he asked me why the grass was wet in the morning. I told him it was condensation and explained how condensation happens. In saying that, I believe that it is important to not get too discouraged when they don’t understand these concepts. Their cognitive development is not mature enough to fully understand these concepts. Many concepts, such as space, need the students to think abstractly about an idea. To do this students need a higher level of cognitive development to fully understand the process.
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I agree about talking about science/sky stuff to young children. I remember taking my own children outside at night to look at the sky. Even if they don't understand right away, if they hear the information enough times, eventually it'll make sense. I heard somewhere there are statistics of how many times children at different ages, have to hear something in order to remember. Plus nowadays, there are so many great sites that have videos and interactive activities.
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You make some important points about first understanding what students might already know or wonder about and then building upon their questions as you build a unit! Then you are sure to keep them all engaged and also build upon current knowledge bases. Thats for that important reminder and the great website link!
My students have difficult with what is a celestial object. They always say clouds, birds, jets, etc. Then I end up asking them what do they see in the sky at night. From there, the students get an idea what a celestial object is. I usually need to remind them quite often the meaning of the celstial object and it does take longer for some to grasp the idea it is way up in the sky, higher than the clouds.My students seem to grasp the idea the moon rotates around the earth and the earth rotates around the sun. I will be doing more on the celestial objects in 3rd quarter(we decided that will be a better time to teach it).
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Scale and distance are pretty hefty concepts for young students to wrap their minds around. Looking at the night sky provides such wonder and why questions : )
This might be an interesting probes to elicit their understanding
Gazing at the Moon [/b]
http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9780873552554.24'' target="_blank">http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9780873552554.24' target="_blank">http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9780873552554.24
• Although the ideas in this probe exceed what elementary students are expected to know and depend on their experiences with geographic concepts, it may be useful in determining ideas that develop early on.[/i]
Here is Page Keeley's column about formative probe : Where are the Stars?
http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/sc11_049_01_32'' target="_blank">http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/sc11_049_01_32' target="_blank">http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/4/sc11_049_01_32
This column focuses on promoting learning through assessment. In this month’s issue the author explores children's knowledge of where the stars are in relation to the Earth and Moon.
Here is another probe on this topic
[b]Objects in the Sky
http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9780873552738.25'' target="_blank">http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9780873552738.25' target="_blank">http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9780873552738.25
The purpose of this assessment probe is to elicit students’ ideas about when objects can be seen in the sky. Students’ explanations reveal their thinking about the role of light and distance in seeing sky objects
Let us know if you find these probes and ideas useful for your young students
My best, Arlene
Teaching science to kindergarteners is great because they are so naturally inquisitive. And although teaching Space Science is not always as hands-on as some of the other science areas, it does seem to always be a captivating study for kindergarteners, I think this is partly because the sky is so readily observable and also because the sky is so truly magnificent and magical. As an adult, I find the night sky in particular to be mesmerizing and therapeutic. And as a child, I remember also being mesmerized by it. In fact, I remember reading a chapter book once about a child who found some kind of magic potion in a bottle, and if it was applied to the shoulders, he/she sprouted wings with which the child could fly through the sky. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the book, nor do I remember details of the story, but I do remember being completely compelled to keep reading because of the beautiful depictions of the night sky scenes. If anyone might have an idea as to what this book might have been, I would be delighted to know what it was. Or if anyone has any good suggestions for other captivating books about the sky I would love to hear about these as well.
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Hi Veronica! I miss teaching the celestial objects to the kindergarteners. I agree with you that it's harder to teach space sciences because you aren't able to give them someone they can actually feel or touch. Just like you I was always mesmorized by the stars and the moon. I feel that the students are the same way. They love learning about space because it seems to foreign to them. I really like incorporating art with space sciences, because this is where to can see the students creativity. I did a lesson with my kindergarten students on Van Gogh's Starry Nights and we talked about the stars in the sky. After they learned about the stars and moon, we then created a picture inspired by Van Gogh's starry night picture. This was a really great lesson for the younger students. They seemed to have really enjoyed the lesson also.
I'm glad to see that you are still teaching science with all the demands that Common Core is putting on teachers. Let me know if I can give you any other suggestions or if you have any suggestions for teaching space science to third graders =)
When I read the tittle of the post I thought how fun it would be to teach children the concept of space in kindergarden! Then I read your post and I thought wow it must be a hard concept for young children to understand especially if you don't see it. These are things I will have to think about. An idea so simple to us can become very confusing to a young child. They are the best learners of science because they always why. I think if you put hands on activities that will engage the children they will really enjoy the lesson. They might not fully understand, for that will take time to understand a concept as big as space, but they will take away some information. That information you can always build more than one lesson off of. Take it at smaller steps. This could call for a reason for a field trip to a science center! I think that would be very effective and be a reminder of what was learned in class!
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This is a great conversation. I agree with everybody although I want to make sure that I am not creating a misconception by giving too much information too soon.
I am thinking about something I read yesterday dealing with Space Science.I was reading Page Keeley's column in Science and Children and 5th graders when asked where the stars were located most of them believed the stars were between us and the moon. They didn't realize that the starts they see at night are beyond our solar system.
I wonder if picture books I might have read to my class might have planted that misunderstanding. Did I share too much information too soon with young children? What do others think?
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You mentioned wondering if you had given your students misinformation by reading picture books too soon. I think that may be a great way to introduce talking about stars - with the "misinformation" - asking the kids who thought the same thing. I support learning through mistakes, so no, I don't think it's never too early to teach children. Especially teaching them about science! I will remember this to use when I start astronomy with my 8th graders. I wonder how many of them will also think that the stars were located between Earth and the moon. Thank you for your post!
Don't worry about just as long as the students get exposure to science, that't the main thing. From first grade to third grade, a lot of the standards go hand in hand so when they come to 4th grade, I feel that they have had a lot of exposure to what I am already teaching them. You are a great teacher and I know from experience so no matter what or how you are teaching them, you are reaching them at some level!
Cori Lyn Shikuma
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I really enjoyed reading through this post. I used to teach Kindergarten and teaching students concepts that seem simple to us are often beyond the grasp of these young learners. One of the things that I remembered about teaching this age group is that there is such diversity in the experiences that the students have and the abilities of the students. Our goal is to ensure that they have the basic concepts in mind while not shying away from going beyond these concepts for those that are on the other end of the spectrum. Now that I work with grades K-5 it's wonderful to see the development and progression of learning especially in the students I had in K! I used to wonder how the benchmarks I taught in K tied into the upper grades. Now I know they are vitally important!
It's useful to make the concept real to the learner. Tracking the moon over a period of time (maybe with the help of mom and dad as a homework assignment!) and talking about where the sun is during these periods could be useful. Encourage discussion in class and at home to help distinguish what a celestial body is and isn't.
Another idea is to use technology. We can't physically visit other places but we sure can go there using the Internet. I could show students what it looks during the same time of day in another part of the world and discuss why that is so. This might help students begin to grasp important Kindergarten standards.
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Reading with interest and considering your posts describing the teaching about planets and stars, or Moon phases to Kindergarteners or lower ES students - I have always wondered why teachers pick the theme of space and solar system for remedial summer school programs in my school district. Still wondering...
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This was a very interesting conversation..I teach 5th grade and I never thought about the concepts of space being hard to teach at the lower elem. Ages. It was great to see the perspective of younger aged teachers.... It made me see the spiral affect pre 5th grade and what they learn in the lower grades. I agree with on poster about taking advantage of those inquiries at a young age. If we think about it the moon and sun are in so many books that the little ones read. Good night moon is a perfect place to start...then when they get to the upper grades they'll have basic background knowledge about these concepts of Space... Integrating into literature is another wonderful way to get children excited about science! Thanks for everyones posts, awesome.
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I just finished teaching several lessons covering both sky objects and celestial objects with my Kindergarteners. This year, I tried to make the lesson more of a hands-on experience as well as an inquiry based by doing activities, such as placing pans of water indoors and outdoors in the morning and then comparing the temperatures in the afternoon by using the sense of touch to learn more about the sun. And in another lesson, the students made moon craters with flour and cinnamon by dropping marbles into this simulation of the moon’s surface to see how craters are formed. The students had a great time, and there was much more active discussion about the sun and the moon than I have had in the past years. If anyone has any other good suggestions for hands-on lesson ideas for celestial objects, I would love to hear about them so that I can add these to my unit on celestial objects.
Hi. I am a science teacher, currently teaching high school math. I have a 4 year old son and I have been answering all of his questions about science. I agree with Michael who provides real scientific explanations to his son. A few things that have helped me teach astronomy to my son are google sky maps, google earth, and a globe. We also read books and watch videos. He understands some basic concepts pretty well and I think it is a great idea to teach space science and other sciences too in the early grades. And math too by the way.
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I love how you said that the best way to learn is to ask 'why'. I believe that asking questions is the absolute best way to learn about something. After all, no one knows you don't understand something unless you say so! Asking why is a quick and easy way to gather new information!
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I teach at a NASA Explorer School in Minnesota, and our Aerospace program starts at the Pre-K level! We expose our students as early as possible to flight, aerospace, engineering and science. I actually teach 8th grade Earth and Space Science, but we have an amazing elementary staff that work with PreK and K students and they are exposed to more NASA information than the general public most likely. All students at all grade levels in our school are participating in the GRAIL naming contest which is going on right now actually for instance.
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I have heard such great things about the NASA schools. Do your 8th graders create presentations or work with the younger students? I would be interested in hearing how the vertical planning occurs in your school system.
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To add on the Rena's post about technology and space.. now that technology has come so far with all the new aps on the IPADS it would be ever more fun to teach them about SKY and SPACE through technology. The students will be able to use the resources to study the sky and what is out there and see first hand through a electronic device that can be held in your hand.
I think technology is great but was on the fence about using it all the time because I felt that students the Old fashion way of learning, through observation, books, etc. However, I did go to a training for something else last year and they emphasised that these students now a days are a technology age. They learn through the computer and all these fancy devices. So as a teacher I need to make sure I am up to pare and using technology to teach.
And with programs like Discovery Education, Safari Montage, and Kid Biz it is even more impotant to teach with technology.
What an exciting time to be a teacher!
My school was also a NASA explorer school. For our vertical planning, we decided on a theme, such as rockets, and used the activities that are listed in the NASA website lesson plan resources. Then we divided the activities by grades. One would do straw rockets, another did alka seltzer rockets, or air rockets, or water bottle rockets, etc. Also, at that time, I had my 6th graders help out the kindergartners, once a week for about 30 minutes, reading books and helping write out observations.
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I am very happy to be a participant in this thread. I wish that when I was in elementaty school, or even pre-K, I could have been exposed to what the students have access to today. Maybe I don't get out much, but I didn't know about NASA explorer schools. I was amazed by Joshua's account of his school and that they start the kids so early. Kids do ask why all the time and it is great to be able to sit down and show them and explain to them what the are wondering about. I also am a bit afraid of too much technology at such an early age, but I suppose some of it is inevitable and with astronomy, there may be no better way. Judy brings up interesting examples of vertical learning and, as my philosophy is that you don't really understand something until you can explain it to someone else, I think the sixth graders at her school, who are explaining to the younger kids, are the real learners. Thanks for all the ideas and inspiration.
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