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Farrar

Astronomy for an 8th grader

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Mushroom would like to do some astronomy next year. I've got a hodgepodge of things in mind, including The Great Courses: The Night Sky, Crash Course Astronomy, TOPS's Scale the Universe, and some other stuff.

 

I'm trying to decide what I want him to read. He's not a fast reader. I was thinking of having him read Dava Sobel's The Planets, which is such a lovely little book. Any other suggestions? I'd also love to find some fiction or biographies. Like, anyone have a great graphic novel for astronomy? A really good biography? A novel? I might have him read the one George's Secret Key book we haven't done yet, though I'm not sure if it's right for this or not.

 

Also, any good hands on books? Obviously we're just going to go look at the sky (though in the city that's almost laughable, but I guess we can hit the country some evening). We have good binoculars. I don't want to invest in a telescope. Anything else?

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How about the local astronomy clubs? Volunteering at the planetarium? Some of the Smithsonian Transcription Center or Zooniverse astronomy related projects? Zooniverse has some very cool galaxy and supernova identification projects going on right now.

 

We did TOPS Pi in the Sky and it was challenging and interesting. I didn't know I had forgotten so much about radians.

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We'll definitely hit up the planetarium show. I can't even remember the last time we went - we used to go every few weeks because it's free. And a local university does an astronomy talk followed by some telescope gazing once a month.

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We're doing astronomy for 8th too, using Blair Lee's new Astronomy2 from Pandia Press; don't have my mitts on it to see what she recommends for extras tho (it comes out 8/21 Eclipse Day).  We'd be using similar resources that you mentioned, Farrar; I admit having a nerdgirl crush on The Bad Astronomer (Crash Course astronomy guy). 

 

Besides The Planets, which I agree is great, I have sections of the following sticky-noted for study:

Carlo Rovelli's Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (very short book and I think understandable for 8th graders)

Michio Kaku's Einstein's Cosmos

Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Contact

Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time (tho she's read parts of this before)

and Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.

 

But...I might have her focus on one or another thing, novel-wise; perhaps a re-read of The Martian, or maybe A Wrinkle in Time?

 

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A few sections from A Brief History of Time might be good. The Martian Chronicles is a good thought. We read The Martian aloud and he loved it, but I doubt he'll want to reread and it's longish. He hated A Wrinkle in Time (sniffle, sniffle). He's already seen Contact, but I might read it aloud. Any reading has to be either on the easy end like a YA book or kind of short. He can tackle a harder text, but he has so little reading stamina. I feel like it's actually gotten worse in the last year. We're working on it. Sigh.

 

Kfamily, that book looks perfect. Putting it in my Amazon cart. :)

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Videos on astronomy and space exploration.

Drawing the moon every night for a cycle.

Boy Scout merit badge handbooks on Astronomy and Space Exploration (many MBA handbooks are online)

Model rocketry at into level, maybe hobby rocketry is a better term

Biographies of astronauts, scientists

Build a Galileoscope. It teaches you about what Galileo would have seen, so not powerful at all, but it underlines how important optics and technology are for astronomy. Btw, If you really use the Galileoscope a tripod is useful.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Galileoscope-LLC-299-Kit/dp/B002J9KGHC

 

BSA Astronomy

https://www.elsinga.net/downloads/merit/Astronomy%20Merit%20Badge%20Pamphlet%2035859.pdf

 

BSA Space Exploration

http://be4real.com/ScoutingStuff/MeritBadgeBooks/Space%20Exploration%20Merit%20Badge%20Pamphlet.pdf

Edited by Alessandra
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This might be too much, but my husband really likes Blind Watchers of the Sky by Rocky Kolb. (We're going to have our slow middle school reader read it.)

 

Emily

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A Brief History of Time is such a crummy book. It isn't accurate enough for a serious student, but too confused and obscure for an overview. There has to be something better if you want to cover cosmology. Steven Weinberg's The First Three Minutes comes to mind. Anthony Zee's An Old Man's Toy covers cosmology, largely in relation to gravity and he is an amazing explainer. That book would be far more worthwhile and enjoyable than Hawking.

 

I'm reading The Stargazer's guide by Emily Winterburn right now to my kids along side The Planets and they are loving it. It is both practical and novel-ish at the same time.

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RSO is coming out with Astronomy 2 on Aug. 21st. There isn't much info out yet, but I guess they are hoping to have a supply list available next week.

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It's not for everyone, but we used Signs and Seasons text + field guide.  The kids also really liked Smithsonian's The Planets: https://www.amazon.com/Planets-Robert-Dinwiddie/dp/1465424644

 

They also liked the Night Sky app.  We would spend time out at night, using the app to find the different planets, stars, etc.  We also bought Celestron astronomical binoculars and were able to ID different craters on the moon.

 

They did not like the Great Courses at all.  I returned them to the library (good thing I was able to get them from the library).  They did like the Cosmos series, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (it was on Netflix - I think it still is, isn't it?).

Edited by Evanthe
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