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For Teachers

When kids are asked for their favorite topics in science, astronomy (along with dinosaurs) is always high on the list. As a "gateway" to science education, astronomy is essential to the curriculum in many states and school districts. But even where astronomy is not required, it can often be a wonderful way to approach required science principles and ideas. Examples from astronomy can make vivid any general discussion of gravity and forces, of nuclear energy, of light and color, and of the nature of scientific hypotheses. (For a summary of astronomy in the K-8 science standards of the 50 states, see: http://aer.noao.edu/cgi-bin/article.pl?id=204)

As you explore the Seeing in the Dark website, be sure to take a look at the how-to videos for stargazing, print out a custom star chart of the night sky where you live, and read and watch special effects videos of fascinating astronomy topics.

An enormous amount of research has been done during the last few decades on how students learn most effectively, and the consensus is that doing activities and discovering ideas on your own is far better than passive listening. In this section you will find a selection of proven hands-on activities that teach basic astronomy to your students. In addition, we have links to activities around the web, organized by topic.

You can also find great astronomy related activities in the PBS Teachers website.

Seeing in the Dark Activities

Other Activities on the Web

Constellations and the Night Sky

The Sun, the Moon, and the Planets

  • Earth as a Peppercorn [GRADE 2 AND UP]
    Use common household items to lay out the relative distances among the planets
  • Toilet-paper Solar System [GRADE 2 AND UP]
    Make a scale model of the solar system by using rolls of toilet paper to mark out distance
  • Birthday Moon [GRADE 3 through 9]
    Learn the phases of the Moon and figure out what the Moon will look like on your next birthday
  • Observing the Sun Safely [GRADE 3 AND UP]
    Project an image of the Sun for viewing
  • Remember the Egg [GRADE 4 AND UP]
    Train your eye to spot subtle differences on planetary surfaces by looking at the surfaces of eggs
  • Venus Topography Box—Part 1 and Part 2 [GRADE 5 AND UP]
    Simulate the use of radar to see planets that are covered by clouds
  • A Grapefruit Saturn [GRADE 5 AND UP]
    Construct a simple scale model of Saturn and the objects around it
  • Your Weight on Other Planets [GRADE 5 AND UP]
    Calculate what you would weigh on different planets and moons—alternate link
  • Saturn
    NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
    Reflections of a Star [GRADE 6 AND UP]
    Use a mirror to safely measure the angular size of the Sun
  • Solarscapes [GRADE 6 AND UP]
    Learn about the properties and rotation of the Sun
  • Impact Cratering [GRADE 7 AND UP]
    Simulate impacts in the solar system in your classroom
  • Mars Activities [GRADE 7 AND UP]
    Provide your students with a wide range of Mars-related activities produced by a team at Arizona State University

The Stars and Nebulae


  • Orion Nebula
    The Orion Nebula, by Rob Gendler
    Calculating Stellar Travel Times [GRADE 5 AND UP]
    Give students a sense of the distances to the stars in bike years and light years
  • Finding and Measuring Delta Cephei [GRADE 7 AND UP]
    Observe one of the best-known variable stars and learn how astronomers make use of such stars
  • The Jewels of the Night [GRADE 7 AND UP]
    Make an H-R diagram of a cluster of stars and estimate its age
  • Life Cycle of Stars [GRADE 9 AND UP]
    Organize images of people in age sequence and then learn enough about the lives of stars to do the same for stars

Light and Spectra

  • small telescope
    From Seeing in the Dark
    Here it Comes, There it Goes [GRADE 7 AND UP]
    Construct a sound-emitting ball to show the Doppler Effect
  • Hands-on Optics [GRADE 7 AND UP]
    Explore a series of activities on lenses, mirrors, lasers, telescopes, etc.
  • Inverse Square Law [GRADE 7 AND UP]
    Do an experiment to see how light intensity falls off with distance

Miscellaneous Activities

  • Andromeda galaxy
    Andromeda, by Rob Gendler
    Astronomy in the Marketplace [ANY GRADE]
    Encourage students to come up with as many astronomically-named products as possible
  • Your Galactic Address [GRADE 3 AND UP]
    Help students to think about their full address in space, and what systems they are part of
  • Kinesthetic Astronomy [GRADE 6 AND UP]
    Assist your students in using their bodies to simulate astronomical motions
  • How Many Days in a Year [GRADE 8 AND UP]
    Make calculations to introduce the Gregorian calendar

For more astronomy activities for teachers, see: http://www.astrosociety.org/education/activities/astroacts.html

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