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Science Fair Day!

Stef is hosting the 4Real Science Fair today and the boys and I happen to be kicking off our winter astronomy study! According to the Handbook of Nature Study, our timing is perfect:

"The natural time for beginning star study is in the autumn when the days are shortening and the early evenings give us opportunity for observation. After the polar constellations are learned, we are then ready for further study in the still earlier evenings of winter, when the clear atmosphere makes the stars seem more alive, more sparkling and more beautiful than it does at any other period of the year."

We've been on an outer space kick for some time, due to Earlybird's intense interest in this subject. (Remember this post?) But now we will officially begin a "study" of the stars, planets, sun, moon and many other aspects of astronomy. We will use many different living science books and hands-on activities to supplement our study. I will follow a portion of Behold and See 3 as a spine (or a framework), breaking the subject down into one section a week. As a fun kick-off we gathered up our solar system resources and set them out on display:

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Above you see some of the resources we'll be using - coloring books, field guides, notebooks, fiction and non-fiction materials alike. This display is set up just below the planet posters we borrowed from my good friend Beth, whose oldest son (now 11) was also into space stuff when he was a little guy. We have been the lucky recipients of many wonderful space-related materials from our friends:

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No sooner did I have our science fair set up put together when EB caught wind of the plan.

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Excuse the belly shot, but I had to show you his much loved, hand-me-down, space shuttle sweatshirt. (More thanks to Beth!) EB loooves his "blast off" shirt and he also loves wearing this backpack, which was handmade by Beth's mother:

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EB wears this bag out sometimes, but mostly just around the house! Next, I asked EB to show me some planets in one of his favorite planet books ...

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Here is EB pointing out Neptune. (This boy loves his planets.)

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Then the older two boys tried a quick experiment to illustrate how the sun can be bigger, and yet look as small as, the moon. They first compared the size of their thumbs to each other's heads. Then they stood apart from each other; it was further apart than shown below, but for photography purposes I had them stand closer. Next they each closed one eye and held up their thumb in front of the other eye. They noticed that their thumb could "cover" their brother's head!

Reason being:

"Your thumb looks the same size as someone's head if the person is far away and your thumb is close. It works the same way with the moon, which is close to the earth and the sun, which is far away and bigger." (Behold and See, p. 76)

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And what would a science fair be without a little bit of light saber action? Actually the boys were using them as pointers at that moment - the very next it was all Star Wars again. I think I asked "Which planet is made entirely of gas and if it grows in size would become a sun?"

Answer: Jupiter! Or as EB calls it - Memaju. (If you ask EB which planet is his favorite, he places a finger to his nose and says "Mmmmmm ... Memaju!")

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These are so neat - rubber ball planets! Crackerjack got to play with each ball as we read about the planet it represented. These are great preschool science for EB, too (who was napping for this part).

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I asked the boys to line the planets up in order - note the asteroid belt in between Mars and Jupiter and the shooting stars off to the left and right. :)

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A few of the planet posters up close:

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As we read about the planets, I wrote down the boys' narrations and at long last made up fact cards for our planet posters. I'd like to share what the boys said:

Sun: "The sun is just a big star but it is special to us because it helps us see and it helps things grow."

Mercury: "It is so hot it can cook a pizza! It would be a strange place to live - no air, no clouds, no weather, no blue sky."

Venus: "Venus is hotter than Mercury even though it's farther away from the sun. Its clouds act like a heavy blanket."

Earth: "Life can grow here so it is special and perfect. Only earth has continents (there are seven)."

Mars: "It might have once had life. It is very windy and sandy. It is known as the red planet because it is made up of red sand."

Jupiter: "It has a big red spot on it. It is the biggest of all the planets we know."

Saturn: "Saturn has the biggest moon in the solar system, called Titan. The rings are made up of chunks of rocks and ice and moons that keep those chunks from escaping into outer space."

Uranus: "It spins on its side. It fell over because a giant something the size of the earth crashed into it and bam!!!"

Neptune: "It is blue and windy and is hard to see because of a thin layer of fog."

Pluto: "Pluto is made of rock, not gas like the other outer planets. It is no longer a real planet, but a dwarf."

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Two more items from Earlybird - above you see his most favorite (and gigantic) space book, open to the page about space exploration.

And below you see the wooden star he decorated with markers and stickers. (These plain wooden stars are less than a dollar at the craft store. Add a package of stickers and EB is all set for some fine-motor crafting!)

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And finally, I caught this snapshot of EB just falling asleep - clutching the foam crescent-shaped moon from a craft kit we'd worked on.

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A few future plans:

  • visit a planetarium
  • participate in our homeschool group's science fair
  • learn about the history of space exploration
  • put on a planets play
  • set up our telescope
  • set up our astronomy notebooks
  • create a moon chart
  • redecorate EB's room in an outer space motif. (He's getting a huge solar system mobile for his birthday next month.)

I hope you enjoyed our Science Fair post! As we are just starting our study, I am sure we will have more to share along the way. Thanks for stopping by!

And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; He made the stars also. (Genesis 1:16)

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