My son has been thoroughly interested in our brief foray into cosmology and the origins of our universe. Then again, so have I which should not be surprising. Generations of our ancestors have often looked up at the night sky and pondered it. Cosmology touches on some of the same wonder points as religion. Both are our attempts to determine our place in the universe, where we came from, and where we are going.
The last few days, contemplating the vastness of our universe, the magnitude of the seen (and unseen), and the very ways in which things are still moving, expanding, and otherwise creating is really awe inspiring. There’s a part of me that would still like to stay in this unit even though another part of me feels like we should move on as there’s only so much my young children can understand.
It was a bit difficult to find age appropriate resources as most public schooled children don’t cover this until they are much older. When they do touch on things like this the much smaller solar system is first. I didn’t find as much as I’d like from a bigger perspective and it was important for me to start from the larger and work toward the smaller in order to give all of our studies a bit of context. I don’t think that this impulse is unique, but it seems like it is somewhat non-traditional.
We have two favorite books. The first is an older resource and though it has been reprinted, it is only available in paperback. I really prefer hardcover as they last longer in our house with a certain small, but exuberant and unintentionally destructive person. “Older than the Stars” by Karen Fox was a great introduction for the kids. Her repeating, building verses really helps to reinforce the general concepts behind the Big Bang. The illustrations are simple, but still helpful in getting the point of the verse across. I found this book particularly inspiring in creating our timeline of the universe. We borrowed some of her phrases in order to create something simple and yet still meaningful. I’ll have to get a picture posted later of what we made. The kids had a blast helping me make it.
Our second favorite book is “Bang! The Universe Verse: Book 1” by JL Dunbar. I was a little bit afraid that this would be too advanced for my kids. I love the artwork on the page as JL Dunbar manages to catch the sense of wonder in the amazing things that took place at the beginning of our universe. I needn’t have worried. We’re on our second reading and the kids were as interested today as they were when we first read it. I think this is a book that we can really grow into and I’m beginning to think that I should buy paper copies instead of just the ebooks.
We’ve watched a few episodes from the History Channel’s program, “The Universe.” This was clearly meant for adults and yet my son was enthralled from the moment it began until the credits rolled. We’ve watched one on the Big Bang and another on the Milky Way. I’m tempted to pick up one more episode on Supernovas at the very least before we continue on.
I’m apparently quite far behind the times with this last one. I guess it has been around since 2009 and been featured in all the sorts of places I either read or listen. I should have come across this before now, but then again it’s serendipitous and came across my path right on time. Symphony of Science is an effort by John Boswell to merge science and music in much the same way that JL Dunbar uses graphic novels to bring big ideas of science to children. All with auto-tune…how cool is that?
This one is my favorite by far. You really can’t go wrong with Morgan Freeman auto-tuned and singing phrases like “Everything is made up of tiny packets of energy born in cosmic furnaces.”
Although, this one was another helpful resource for our current unit. My three-year old wanted to sit on the couch and watch all of them this morning.
When I save up my pennies, I’m thinking of getting the entire compilation of MP3s that have been made so far. This is one of those things I think the kids would ask to listen to over and over again.
Another video we watched this morning was David Christian’s “Big History” TED talk from this year. It was a big hit with my son.
I’m a bit tapped out on where to go next if we were to stay here. I know that one could spend their entire life studying cosmology as there are people who do just that every day. At this point I think it’s wise to move on as many of the concepts would be too hard for the kids to understand or really appreciate. I have to remind myself that we will travel this way again.
I may finish up with “Journey to the Edge of the Universe” from National Geographic after the episode on Supernovas I mentioned before. Then again, there’s also Neil Degrasse Tyson’s “Origins” from Nova or Michael Duff’s “The Elegant Universe.” I think Degrasse Tyson is very accessible and his enthusiasm for things is palpable. Above all I think this is what kids respond to the most. If the speaker (or resource) is passionate about what they’re discussing then kids respond.
Wherever we end up traveling with this I am planning on getting our son out at least once while my husband is off for some backyard star gazing using the Star Walk for iPad app. I just need to figure out the right spot and time so that we can hopefully get a chance to see the Milky Way.