Reach for the Stars

Look at the stars! Look, look up at the skies! O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air! The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!- Gerald Manley Hopkins

We have been looking up at the night sky in wonder, grouping stars into constellations, filling the heavens with heroes, gods and fantastic creatures for thousands of years. The myths and legends of lost civilizations can be found above us and help us understand the stories that chart our own time. Our galaxy is vast and mysterious, and its moons, faraway planets and falling stars captivate our imagination. On clear summer nights, this vast expanse seems to beckon us to journey into deep space. Though you can’t climb into the family rocket ship and head for the stars, you can take your children on a tour of the heavens from the comfort of your own backyard. 

You don’t need an expensive telescope or fancy equipment to stargaze, nor do you need to leave the city (although outside the city, the stars shine brighter). All it takes is a little imagination, a blanket and a flashlight. The Moon is the largest and brightest object in the night sky; that makes it a good place to start when stargazing. Use a landmark in your yard to keep track of where and when the Moon rises each evening. Watch how it crosses the sky each night. Create a Moon notebook with your children to document your stargazing observations. On clear nights, draw pictures of the Moon and write the date and time next to each one. As time passes, your kids will see all of its phases. When stargazing, try to do it on a moonless night when the stars shine brightest easier to see. 

Stargazing Activities With Your Kids:

Once your family gets settled, ask everyone to close their eyes and count to 100. This will help your eyes adjust to the darkness. When you open your eyes, the stars will seem to fill every corner of the sky. There are dozens of constellations, see if you can get the kids to find the North Star, The Big Dipper, Scorpius, and Cassiopeia, these are some of the easiest to spot. At Backyard Camp, one of our favourite activities is to make a list of how many different items ( planets, constellations, shooting stars, the moon) you can spot in the sky, then check them off your list as you go. If you just want to look up and admire our galaxy in awe, that’s ok too, it’s only what human beings have done since the dawn of time.