Beginning an astronomy inquiry

There are many ways to start an inquiry. One effective way is to use a story that focuses children’s attention on a specific topic.

In Carol’s Kindergarten class, she used the story of “Raven Steals the Sun” to launch their inquiry into astronomy. The story ends with Raven flying high into the sky until it can see the Earth below. Carol then asked children, “If you could fly as high as Raven can, what would you see?”

In the videos below, Carol explains how this story provided the context she needed to launch her class into further investigation and discussion about astronomy.

What's in space?

What are children thinking?

Children are given a blank piece of paper to think about what’s in space. This gives children an opportunity to show what they are thinking.

Children draw their ideas on paper

Carol sits with children while they draw so she can capture questions that arise, probe for more information, and help children label their drawings.

Example of children's questions

As children draw they ask related questions. Listening to their classmates brings up even more questions! Use these questions throughout the inquiry.

Why do we put kids' work up?

Why is it important to put children’s work up on the walls? Because it’s a powerful way to show children we value their work and their ideas.

Why do we have day & night?

Why does the sun go down?

A child asked, “Why does the sun go down?”. Bringing this question back to the group allows all children to theorize about why the sun goes down.

Asking children to draw a picture

Asking children to draw a picture of why we have day and night can give you information about what they know and how we can move their understanding forward.

Giving the right information

Not when gathering individual understanding! When gathering children’s initial ideas, be open to what they have to say, get them to talk lots, ask probing questions, and just receive whatever information they give at the time.

Common misconceptions

Some common misconceptions are that the sun is why we have day while the moon is why we have night or that the earth orbits the sun.

How children can still hold a misconception

This is an example of how children can often say the right answer but still deeply hold a misconception. It is thus important to dig deeper into a topic to ensure children reach conceptual understanding.

How to address misconceptions

After gathering children’s understandings of why we have day and night, use information sources like books/videos and embodied activities to help children deeply understand the concept.

How to use kids' drawings

This is an example of a child’s representational drawing. It can tell you what they know about a concept but also provides an idea of where they are in terms of development.

Phases of the moon

Painting the universe

Children splatter paint on black paper to illustrate their unique interpretation of the universe, while also providing foundation for discussion about what the universe is.

Creating the moon

Using tinfoil and paint, children create the moon and its craters. This allows for creativity while bringing their attention to the various characteristics of the moon.

Selecting a moon phase

Students can now select any moon phase they wish to represent. Black paper is layered on top of the moon to illustrate the phase.

Placing the moon in the universe

The moon is added to their painting, creating a close up of their chosen moon phase in the night sky. Educators may scribe student thinking/conceptions regarding the selected moon phase.