Posted: Sep 28 2015
66,600 miles per hour.
That is how fast we are hurtling through space whilst orbiting our Sun. And if that wasn't fast enough... we're also spinning around the Earth's axis at 1,070 mph!!
Why on earth aren't we all feeling a little dizzy and hanging on for dear life??? It's pretty mind blowing isn't it? And with these questions I've only just started to scratch the surface in terms of how incredibly fascinating space is.
In fact, I think it's one of the most AWESOME topics to share with your children and below I dive into my top five reasons why.
Before jumping in, here are some more cool facts to get your grey matter jiggling....
- Our solar system is about 4.6 billion years old
- 1.3 million earths (squished together) could fit inside the Sun
- If we could sit on a photon of light leaving the sun it would take us approximately eight minutes to reach Earth
- Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. It's also the smallest planet.
- Proximus Centauri (the nearest star to our Sun) is 4 light years away
- Jupiter has at least 62 moons and the largest, Ganymede, is bigger than the planet Mercury.
- One year on Mercury is 88 Earth days
- One year on Neptune is 60,190 Earth days (165 Earth years)
- Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system with an average temperature of 462 degrees Celsius.
Looking up at the stars you can’t help but feel small. It’s a pretty big place out there. To grasp and appreciate the vastness of the universe from the very large to the very small - expands our brains....our way of thinking and, I think, opens our minds to what is possible.
I love teaching my son about our solar system and helping him to appreciate it's size and the scales involved. I find that the best place to start is with some every day facts and figures that he can easily comprehend. Like how far it is to school for example, and how long it takes to get there. I then extrapolate from there and explain that if it takes us 20 minutes to travel 10 km to school, then travelling at the same speed (30 kph) it would take us approximately one and half years to reach the moon! And that's without any pit stops :)
NB. Our moon is 384,400km from Earth.
Below is a brilliant video which does an amazing job of illustrating the INCREDIBLE scale of our universe!
This was one topic that completely blew my mind when I was a kid! Learning that when we look up into the night sky, we're actually looking back in time and some of the stars we're gazing at today may no longer be there is just amazing and stretches the mind in such a way that it is never the same again. I love watching children's faces light up with wonder when they grasp the concept. It still amazes me NOW.
I also think that it can teach children to question that what they can perceive with their eyes might not actually be real and to encourage them look at ‘things’ from different points of view and from different perspectives to enable them to put the whole picture together. A critical skill not only in science but in other subjects like interpreting news reports and events throughout history, where stories can often be reported with a bias.
The video below does a great job of explaining some of these concepts.
I think space is a particularly enchanting subject for kids as it naturally inspires and provokes many of the BIG questions, such as:
- Who am I?
- Where am I?
- Why are we here?
- Is there a plan?
- What is the meaning of life?
Learning about space and our place in the universe can create a wonderful sense of mystery which is such an amazing, life affirming feeling to have.
To quote Einstein:
4. Is there a design?
Star gazing can often lead to philosophical questions. And at the root of many of them , that people across the ages have grappled with, are 'Is there a design?' and 'Where did we come from? '
I grew up in a home where my Dad would often call God, "The Programmer" and this was way before the Matrix came along. I was always encouraged to explore my journey into religion and the world of beliefs and along with this and my RE studies at school I happily learnt about the world religions and different cultures and moved onto philosophy.
"Only philosophers embark on this perilous expedition to the outermost reaches of language and existence. Some of them fall off, but others cling on desperately and yell at the people nestling deep in the snug softness, stuffing themselves with delicious food and drink. 'Ladies and Gentlemen,' they yell, 'we are floating in space!' But none of the people down there care." Sophie's World
I think learning about space can be a natural starting point for discussions around beliefs and religion with children. To learn about Darwin's theory of evolution along with the Big Bang and to discuss creation stories from other cultures is enlightening and thought provoking. I think it’s important to learn that some people may have different beliefs to the ones that you grow up with along with a willingness to accept these differences. It teaches us tolerance.
I've included links to other sites you may find of interest in the further resources section at the end of this blog.
The video below is a perfect introduction to evolution.
ET, Earth to Echo and Men In Black are all brilliant science fiction films that deal with aliens and this is a fabulous space related topic for kids - perfect for grabbing their attention and firing up their imaginations.
It's only natural that once we start to understand our place in the universe our curious minds begin to wonder if we are alone..... Is anyone else out there? If so, who are they and where are they? Do they resemble us or are they utterly different? Have they tried to make contact or are they in fact secretly among us NOW?
Pondering the existence of aliens is great fun and can be the start of many creative art projects. It can also be a great opener when encouraging children to think about what is needed to support life and to think about why we might search for other planets and explore our universe.
A reoccurring theme that runs through many alien based science fiction is that of 'bringing friends and communities together', and echoes my thoughts in the previous section - in that we may come from different background and cultures but we are joined by our humanity - for at the end of the day - we are all Earthlings - floating about in space!
SETI - The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is an exploratory science that seeks evidence of life in the universe by looking for some signature of its technology.
Creation Stories and Myths - creation stories from around the world.
NASA - Planet Quest - fantastic website by NASA with up to date information on the search for other planets. Includes a fascinating historical timeline.
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