Boston Children's Museum
308 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02210
There are a whole host of skills that children use when making discoveries – problem solving, using tools, communicating, and many more. But few skills are as important to a child’s developing understanding of their world as being a good observer. Science, engineering, art, cultural understanding, and many more disciplines rely on observation. When you give children an opportunity to really look at the world around them, and note the things that are changing or remaining constant, you give them the chance to develop and grow into good observers.
If you are not using an actual journal, ask children to each create a cover page with the title “My Sky Observation Journal”, and their name under the title. If you are using loose pages, make sure kids have a place to put their journal pages together over the week, month or year you do this activity.
Ask your students what kinds of things they think they would see if they looked up at the sky today. Write down, on a piece of chart paper, white board, etc., everything they list. If they look outside on another day, will they see the same things or different things? Why do they think that might be? Tell them that you are going to all keep a journal of what they observe in the sky over a period of a week, a month, a year (teacher’s choice), and see if they notice any patterns or surprises.
Ask your students how they think scientists might use observations to help them figure things out. After a brief discussion, you can tell them that the kind of observing they will do outside is the same kind of observing that scientists do – scientists observe the world, notice interesting things, ask questions about what they observed, and design experiments to help answer those questions.
Keep a journal of your observations of the sky.
After each time that your children look up at the sky and record their observations, bring them together to share what they noticed. Did anything surprise them? Did anything change from last time? Did they see anything they had never seen before, or did they see some things they had expected to see? What descriptive words did they use? What questions about the sky, or anything they saw in the sky, do these observations bring up for them?
If you are using loose pages, ask kids how they would like to collect their pages together into a journal. Some suggestions are using three-ring binders, stapling the pages together, binding them with yarn or a book binding machine, etc. Tell them that they’ll be filling out this journal throughout the year (week, month) to make a book that they can keep.
Continue to make observations daily, a few times a week, weekly, or monthly over an extended period. After a designated amount of time (a week, a month, a year, etc.), have children look back at their observations and see if they notice any patterns.
You could try taking it even further – NASA has a whole host of sites and activities dedicated to data collection and analysis. One of the richest is “My NASA Data” (http://mynasadata.larc.nasa.gov/), which has real time data, activities and more. See Suggestions below for even more ideas.
Earth and Space science activities were developed with the support of NASA. This material is based upon work supported by NASA under grant award number NNX14AQ83G. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).