“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1:1,14-15)
When we look at the text in Genesis, we see there are 6 main reasons why God gave us the heavenly lights.
- To glorify God
- To give us the rhythm of day and night
- To give us signs for navigation
- To mark the seasons of the year
- To help us make calendars
- To give light on the Earth
To Glorify God
Here are some “spark” activities that will dazzle your kids with the wonder of the universe.
1. Visit a planetarium
Check out the International Planetarium Society database.
2. Visit an observatory
Check out this list of observatories in the United States.
3. Visit an International Dark Sky Park
Check out the list of parks around the world.
4. See a meteor shower
Read more about meteor showers and when the best ones are.
5. See the upcoming solar eclipse
Learn more about the total solar eclipse in August 2017.
To Give Us Day and Night
This following activity will give your child an appreciation for the way the movement of the sun organizes our lives.
6. Create a sundial
Follow this tutorial to help your child create their own sundial.
To Give Us Signs for Navigation
These activities are great ways to see how the sun and other stars help us to navigate.
7. See what Odysseus saw
In Homer’s Odyssey, the main character Odysseus uses the stars to sail to the Phaeacian coastline. You can still see the same thing Homer wrote about 2700 years ago. In mid-March to mid-April, go out about an hour after sunset…
• You’ll see the constellation Boötes in the east with its really bright star Arcturus. If you stayed out all night you would see it travel through the night sky.
• Turn to the Southwest and you’ll see Orion and the Pleiades. They will be up in the sky until about midnight.
•Turn to the North and you’ll see Ursa Major just to the right of the North Star. Throughout the night it will move counterclockwise around the North Star.
• If you need help finding these constellations, you can go to neave.com/planetarium to figure our where these stars are located.
8. Use a wristwatch to find north
• Look to where the sun is and draw a line in your mind straight down to the horizon. Aim the hour hand right at that spot on the horizon.
• Look at the angle the hour hand makes with the number 12 on your watch.
• Now cut that angle in half. This is your north to south line. North is the side of the line furthest away from the sun.
To Mark the Seasons of the Year
The moon marked the passing of months for many ancient cultures. Below is a simple, 3D activity you can use to help you and your child understand why the moon goes through phases.
9. Demonstrate the moon phases
To Make Calendars
Many of the stars in the sky are seasonal, allowing ancient people to make calendars to know the passing of years. The activity below helps kids to understand how the constellations change from season to season.
10. Create an astronomy field journal
• Get a sketchbook with lots of blank drawing paper.
• Go outside your home and pick a spot in the yard that gives you the best view of the horizon in one direction—either east, west, or south.
• Pick a time of night you can go out. Ideally, 10:00pm is going to be best for most nights of the year. If you can’t stay up that late, try 9:00 or 9:30.
• Once every 2 to 3 weeks go out, stand in that spot at the same time, face the same direction, and draw just the stars you see in front of you. Draw the stuff on the horizon as well, like trees and housetops. These will be a reference for you.
• Bright stars should be bigger dots. Dimmer stars smaller dots.
• Over time you’ll see new stars, and old stars will shift their position. Over time you’ll start to recognize certain shapes and constellations.
• Have your child look up the constellations they are seeing online at neave.com/planetarium.
To Give Light on the Earth
The sun is vital to all life on Earth. The following activity helps your child understand the sheer size of the sun and its relationship to the Earth.
11. Make a 3D solar system model.
Use these simple items you can find around the house to make your own model of the solar system on a not-so-busy street.
Your Kids Can Learn Astronomy!
If your child loves learning about the sun, moon, and stars, they will love Experience Astronomy.
We cover so much in these full-school-year online courses. Students learn about…
- How to identify major constellations
- Ways astronomy connects to fascinating stories in history, literature, folklore, archaeology, and the Bible
- The amazing world of interstellar space—stars, galaxies, black holes, and exoplanets
- How ancient people used astronomy to tell time, create calendars, and navigate the globe
Best yet: I do all the teaching for you through fun, engaging online videos and hands-on activities.