A Stargazing Unit Study: The Stargazer’s Notebook
When I was writing R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Astronomy 2 the idea for The Stargazer’s Notebook came to me. The Stargazer’s Notebook focuses on learning about the universe by observing the night sky. It is an astronomy unit study presented in the guise of a stargazing unit study. I didn’t want kids to just learn the science of astronomy from a book. My hope was that kids would get an understanding of the universe by making direct observations. I felt this would greatly enhance students’ passion for and knowledge of the subject. For two years, my son, my husband, and I stargazed once every month, saw every special sky event we could, and got up at 2 a.m. to see every meteor shower.
I am a scientist, so my life has been filled with scientific inquiry and learning. From the standpoint of family, the two years of stargazing were the best for both of those. My family and I took road trips so that we would have the best viewing of meteor showers. We hosted a solar eclipse party for the families in our neighborhood. Several friends made a point of showing up for dinner time on the nights we were stargazing. These friends would bring their own chair, blanket, and snacks to share.
There are some tools you might want for stargazing. None are really essential, but some almost are. Others are worth it if you want the “whole” experience. Still others are fun, but definitely optional.
Essential Supplies for a Stargazing Unit Study*
The Stargazer’s Notebook: The visible universe is vast and so is the amount of information about it. The Stargazer’s Notebook provides the ideal instruction manual, planner, journal, and cosmos laboratory for the astronomy student, amateur stargazer, and anyone else wanting to learn more about the stars, planets, and celestial objects that occupy our skies.
The Night Sky Planishere: Apps on your phone are great, but they can not completely substitute for a star map (a planisphere). Make sure you get the correct latitude range of planisphere.
Red light flashlight: I have used this flashlight every time I have stargazed. It has a red light setting and a white light setting. After your eyes have adapted to the dark, you can ruin the adaptation with a blast of white light. Red light does not have the same effect.
If you are using the ebook version of The Stargazer’s Notebook you will want a clipboard for the Night Sky Maps.
Almost Essential Supplies for a Stargazing Unit Study*
Binoculars & Tripod
If you want to be able to do things like see the individual stars in the Beehive Nebula or the moons of Jupiter and rings of Saturn then you will want binoculars and a tripod. You might wonder where the telescope is on this list. I found binoculars to be much easier to use and more practical than a telescope. There are things that you need a telescope to see. If you do choose to go out with a telescope, make sure you have practiced using it before going out.
Celestron Skymaster Binoculars:
I have the 20 x 80 binoculars
The Stargazer’s Notebook is written for ages 10 to 100. Here is a selection of books to bring younger learners up to speed.
The couple of times I went out without a reclining chair and a warm blanket, I regretted it. Recliners are almost essential for stargazing! It is really nice to be able to lay on your back comfortably and warmly when observing the night sky.
These chairs with backpack straps are great for taking when you need to find the perfect location.
Essential for a Stargazing Unit Study? No. Fun to Have? YES!*
I wouldn’t take it out stargazing in case it adds light pollution, but a glow-in-the-dark constellation blanket for dreaming about stargazing adventures is fun to have.
How could stargazing be complete without your very own set of pens from NASA to use to chart the stars!
No evening spent stargazing would be complete without drinks, snacks, and theme music.
SEA water bottle: Do not forget the water in re-usable bottles. That way you are taking care of planet Earth while observing the rest of the visible universe.
SEA drink tumbler for hot drinks: My husband takes coffee out, my son is a hot chocolate guy, and I have to have tea!
Numi Turmeric tea with ginger is the best for staying warm on a chilly night.
Fair Trade Hot Cocoa Mix for those who like it a little sweeter.
Use these vegan cupcake toppers for a fun treat on nights you stargaze. It is super yummy with this recipe for delicious chocolate cupcakes and white buttercream frosting, both vegan and the cupcakes can be made with gluten-free flour.
What stargazing unit study would be complete without solar system lollipops? I want Saturn!
The night could not be complete without theme music to get everyone in the mood. I have spent more than one night with family and friends discussing the likelihood that there is music on at least one other planet in the universe.
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