Teachable Moments: Week of Nov. 16, Night Sky

Welcome to the first of our planned weekly “Teachable Moments” blog. Whether you are a parent with young children or a teacher in the classroom, we want to help you to use events around you as literacy-related, science and math based experiences.

This is a great week for viewing the night sky with children!

Tonight (Monday, November 16, 2009) is a New Moon. New Moons rise and set at approximately the same time as the sun, which is why there is no moon visible at night. If away from big city lights, that means that you can see a star-filled sky (as long as there aren’t clouds).

And seeing lots of stars early in the week means you’ll be able to see lots of shooting stars (aka meteors!). The Leonid meteor shower peaks just before dawn on November 17. NASA forecasts that there will be as many as 195 meteors per hour during the peak. (http://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/) But, you should be able to see meteors any time, just by going outside when stars are visible. For planning purposes, the next major meteor shower is the Gemind shower, around December 13 and 14—, which is, coincidentally near a New Moon. It is much easier to see the meteors around a New Moon than a Full Moon, just because the sky is darker.

And, if you are up very late (or very early), you can see Saturn (with a telescope) as it rises after midnight. http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/education/saturnobservation/viewing2009/. And here’s some information on what you might be able to see: http://soc.jpl.nasa.gov/resources/saturnPosterViewing.pdf

Astronomical tables (moonrises, sunrises, Saturn rises, etc.) can be found pinpointed to your city and state here: http://www.usno.navy.mil/astronomy

Here is a one-week code to access Sylvan Dell’s related titles as auto-flip, auto-read, 3D-page-curling, and selectable English and Spanish text and audio eBooks:

Temporary eBook Viewing Code: TPKXBH
Code expiration date: 11/23/2009
Please click on or copy and paste into your browser the following link:
Available titles:
How the Moon Regained Her Shape (based on Native American folklore about moon phases) Native American names for full moons in November are Frost Moon or Beaver Moon.
Pieces of Another World (about a father and daughter watching meteors together) What’s the different between a meteor, meteoroid, or meteorite? See the book for the answer.
Saturn for My Birthday (Jeffrey wants Saturn for his birthday but his dad better hurry up and order as the shipping may take a while)

You can access the For Creative Minds section for all the books here (in English and Spanish): http://sylvandellpublishing.com/ForCreativeMinds.htm and the free, 20-40 pages of teaching activities here: http://sylvandellpublishing.com/TeachingActivitiesPage.htm

Please look for these books at your library or favorite bookstore too.

Ideas for experiential learning:
If watching the Leonids meteor shower, count how many meteors you see in one minute. If they are falling at that rate, how many meteors might you see in an hour?

Older children can graph results over given time passages. Are there more or less meteors as time passes?

Make the “comet cookies” to help understand what meteors are (kids LOVE food-related activities and it helps them to remember). (see Pieces of Another World For Creative Minds).

A New Moon is day one of a lunar calendar. Keep track of when and where in the sky you see the moon over the next month. What does it look like?

As “incentive” for children to watch for the moon, buy a bag of oreo (or similar) cookies. Each day they see the moon, they get to open the cookie, scrape filling to the shape of the moon (full moon being all the filling) and then eat the whole thing. Like I said, kids LOVE food as a learning tool. If they don’t see the moon, they don’t get a cookie that day…

Keep a calendar journal of what the moon looks like.

If you live close to the ocean, check the tide table and add to your moon journal…see if you see a pattern developing.

If you are able to see Saturn, see if you can pick out the rings and any of the moons.

Ask the child to research another planet and see if he/she can come up with some reasons that he/she should get THAT planet as a birthday present.

Do you have any other ideas to share?


4 thoughts on “Teachable Moments: Week of Nov. 16, Night Sky

  1. I had a brief e-mail exchange with the wonderful folks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory about Saturn’s current visibility. While it’s currently visible after midnight, it will be visible early in the evening the spring next year. I’ll remember to remind everyone. They sent me this link of monthly podcasts of what you might be able to see or a little history about what’s in the night sky: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/whatsup-archive.cfm
    I hope you enjoy it. Happy stargazing! Donna

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