This Astronomy Unit, “Astro-Cosmos, The Last Frontier”, will help primary level students, to bring their personal knowledge and sense of exploration of the Universe and the Solar System to a cooperative learning setting.
I work as a magnet resource teacher with students from kindergarten through fifth grade. I have found construction of scientific models beneficial tools in the study of Astronomy, “The science of the celestial bodies and their motion, magnitudes, and constitution”. (Webster’s Dictionary).
Hands on experiences establish concrete thinking processes in the investigative steps of the scientific method. Students learn how apply principles and laws governing scientific genre. The proposed activities will work wonderfully for students in grades three through five. Modifications can be made for students in upper and lower grades. Modifications can be adapted as a result of the cognitive development of children around the world. Major shifts occur in children between ages 5 and 7 and last until age 12. (Piaget’s concrete operational stage.) This is where children internalize mental actions (operations) and fit them into a logical system and apply concrete thinking. Linked to students increased competence is pride in accomplishments. Howard Gardner (1998) implies that there are multiple intelligence: linguistic, musical, logical, mathematical, spatial bodily, and kinesthetic, all linked to interpersonal and intrapersonal outcomes. This suggests that each child follows a different developmental path.
The science thematic unit approach to education, coupled with the child development philosophy, to build on a child’s prior knowledge base, is a good thing. Every student brings some powerful ability and varied learning style to the classroom. Integration of subject matter, collaborative learning, and organized investigative methods are all processes to help children assimilate information.
An important aspect of learning is the wonderment in the eyes of children clearly seen in the questions they ask about the sky above them by day and night. Fiction literature, television shows, movies, and mythologies invade their minds daily along with seemingly non-fiction stories of travels of aliens, UFO’s and other mysteries of the Universe.
As children develop methods for ascertaining skills to learn, the premise is not to teach them what to believe or think, but how to think. Exploration of scientific facts develop knowledge. Using available scientific principles and laws children come to understand the Universe and Solar System in which they live and move and have their very beings. This doesn’t mean that children can’t enjoy the various, mythical, fancy filled fantasies, or cultural mythical stories of the planets, stars and the universe around them. In fact students may have greater appreciation of diverse literature especially when they have the knowledge to determine the difference between reality and fun filled fantasy.