09May2019

How To Engage Young Learners In The Science Of Astronomy

When you want to be able to engage the next generation in the sciences, you need to find new ways to connect with them. In today’s world there is plenty of instant entertainment available.

Inspiring young people is all about showing them just how much there is to still understand the nature of space

Its all done with the click of a button, which means you need to really fight for the attention of young people. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can do just that, and share the wonder of the night sky with the next generation of would-be scientists.

Ask questions that get them thinking

Astronomy is the branch of science that gets every practitioner thinking about space, and marveling at the stars that punctuate the sky. It’s all about looking into the unknown, and realizing just how small the world is in the grand scheme of things. This in itself can be a humbling experience, and it’s one that will surely get any young person thinking.

Asking questions about the nature of space, or what stars are made of is a great way to pique a student’s interest. Make some of them known, and some of them unknown. That way you can share some incredible insights, whilst also leaving them wanting to know more. Once they have that thirst for knowledge, they’ll be hooked.

Show them the sheer scale of things

There’s nothing more incredible than seeing an image of the Milky Way with an arrow pointing to where the solar system is. We can easily think of the sun and moon as the largest and furthest away objects, but they’re our next-door neighbors in just one of the billions of known galaxies.

If you can show students just how large the known universe is, they’ll start thinking about how we know that, and what lies beyond. Talk about how you can see back in time because of how long it takes the light to arrive, and how you can never know what’s happening right now on the other side of the universe.

Talk about the great discoveries

There are so many amazing things that astronomy has achieved, and they make for great sources of inspiration for any budding astronomer. You don’t have to be a university professor to appreciate the scale of the achievements and what they mean. Regaling a student with tales of how the great minds have conquered convention and come up with a completely new interpretation when everyone thought they were mad will make for a great story.

Make them think about how much is still unknown

If you ask any of the writers at sites like Studicus.com they’ll tell you that astronomy has so many unanswered questions still to be tackled. Whilst some people will see this as a negative, wouldn’t it be boring if everything was already taken care of?

Inspiring young people is all about showing them just how much there is to still understand the nature of space, and that they might just be the ones to do it. It’s all about showing them that anything is possible when you start thinking about the big questions, and you’re not afraid to think a little differently in the search for truth.

Treat it like a puzzle that’s waiting to be solved

Everyone loves a puzzle because it gives you a sense of satisfaction and achievement when you finally complete it. There’s going to be tricky or frustrating times, but these only serve to make the end result all the more sweet. By showing your students that astronomy is a branch of science that allows you to tackle problems and find out amazing things about the universe, you can get them outside of the mindset that it’s just another exam they need to pass in order to get a good grade.

Give practical demonstrations wherever possible

There’s nothing like a practical demonstration to get young people interested in science, and the great thing about astronomy is that everything you need is right up there in the sky, waiting to be explored. If you hand out fact sheets about the constellations, and tell them where to look in the sky to see that particular cluster of stars, you’ll be amazed at how many of them participate. It’s simple, easy, and a great way to get young people thinking about the cosmos.

Keep them up to date with the latest discoveries

It was only this year that the first ever image of a black hole was captured. They used to be considered exotic works of science fiction that the math predicted, but those days are now long gone. By being able to imagine something so dramatically different to anything we experience on earth, the scientists have done something quite remarkable, so why not celebrate it?

All you need to do is talk about what the image tells us, and how it was captured. This alone will tell any interested young learner about the sheer scale of the achievement. It’s all about capturing their imagination, and making them ponder and wonder about what comes next. Once you’ve done that, they’ll be hooked for life.

Introduce them to an expert and host a Q&A

Last but not least, there’s no better way to inspire than to have an expert come in and talk about what they do. It’s all about getting your students to interact and ask questions, and to see how someone who is immersed in astronomy all day long thinks about science. They’ll be able to convey their passion, talk about the fundamentals of the scientific method, and make it clear that not knowing everything is actually what makes it all worth doing.

The minute a young learner embraces the unknown is the moment they become one of the scientists of tomorrow.

About the Author

Lori Jones is an avid blogger, writer for WOWGrade.net, and explorer of the world. She is passionate about helping the next generation learn the skills that will shape tomorrow, and never stops looking for ways to inspire young people.

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