Perfect time to enjoy a star party

NEXT to dinosaurs, children love space the best. Just ask any teacher.

There are very few children I've ever met that don't love to talk about stars, planets, moons, comets, and asteroids. And the questions they ask put adults to shame.

It is Science Week across Australia and the theme this year is 'Making Waves - The Science of Light' and what better way to launch it than to have a star party.

Yep, get the kids out under the stars and show them our Aussie night skies. Explain to them that the light from most of the stars they see left there thousands, even millions of years ago, and it's just arriving now.

Kids have amazing memories and are fantastic at learning patterns and associating the names with them, perfect for constellations.

When teaching children about stars, astronomy book courses aren't enough. Make your lessons as interactive as possible because everything in their world now is in animated form.

Teaching children astronomy has received a boost with the internet and Smartphone technology. It wasn't like that when most of us were kids.

Here are some apps I use that will help.

Designed for kids aged 4-8, 'Star Walk Kids' introduces youngest audiences to the wonders of our universe. Selected objects are explained in short animated films voiced by professional actors.

Next, google 'Nasa Kids Club', then try http://www.kidsastronomy.com.

Afterwards, check out an amazing website I've spent many hours on in the past, http://www.enchantedlearning.com. Teachers just love this one, and you will too.

For a broader choice of online and printable astronomical resources see the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Be sure to click on the 'education' section.

You can also be very clever about your first night sky adventure by choosing to go out when there are likely to be meteor showers. Consult an online website to find out when and from which area of the sky the next meteor shower will come, and get your kids out to see it. This is exciting and you can compete to see who can count the most.

Spotting planets is another fine game, and the kids will soon be good at pointing out Venus or Jupiter at dusk, given a clear sky. Another sneaky one is wait until the space station is passing over. Go to http://www.spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings for times. It's a guaranteed jaw dropper.

Ways to teach about the night sky are limited only by your imagination, and when your kids have grasped the basics, you can then think about a telescope, and mastering that.



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