How to Teach Kids About the Earth and the Universe

How To Teach Kids About The Earth And The Universe - Tips - Blog SKOOLGO

“Why are we here, Dad?”, a child asks his father when shopping. A typical answer would be “We came to buy groceries to prepare dinner.” But then the child reformulates the question: “I mean, why are we here, on this planet?” Then the answer becomes more complex. Children are curious and from a certain age, they start demanding logical, reasonable and scientific explanations.

Many parents and teachers have probably heard questions like “What is the universe?”, “What’s in space?”, “Can we go to the Moon next weekend?” All these concepts are hard to fathom, even for adults, so imagine for a kid. Adults should find the right words and tools to teach children about the Earth and the universe.

When kids first discover the existence of a world beyond their city, their country and finally their planet, they tend to have distinct reactions. Some children will be absolutely fascinated and will ask for a telescope at Christmas. These are the ones who want to become astronauts. However, others can also have a reaction of fear of the unknown.

I remember a conference given by an astronomer where kids were present. The learned scientist mentioned the death of the Sun in around 4 billion years and this scared a kid who had no notion of the time period and started asking when exactly the Sun was going to die. I must admit it also happened to me when I tried to explain what a black hole was to my friend’s daughter and I had to reassure her that there was no black hole near us and nothing tragic was going to happen. The vastness (infinity?) of the universe and its fast expansion are indeed mind-blowing facts to assimilate.

Fear is a reason why we should start transmitting what we know about the universe with tact and by little steps. Learning about the Earth and the solar system at a young age is essential: it can trigger a passion for science in general, and geology, geography and astronomy in particular.

In this article, we offer you a few activities that will help teachers and homeschooling parents to teach children about geology and astronomy. Let’s start the journey to the center of the Earth and continue it to the infinite and beyond!

Our Blue Planet

Our Blue Planet - Tips - Blog SKOOLGO
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

1. Earth Layers

Why is it impossible to get to the center of the Earth? The heroes of the Jules Verne subterranean science-fiction novel have tried but haven’t succeeded. The different layers of the Earth give us a great scientific explanation to why no man or woman will ever get there. To teach kids about the different parts of our little blue ball moving in space, we can offer them a clear worksheet for them to memorize the names of all layers and sublayers and visualize them thanks to two different kinds of section views.

Lots of fun hands-on activities can be carried out to help children build models. They can of course work in 2 dimensions by either drawing and coloring concentric circles of different sizes and colors or cutting and pasting them. It is even funnier if they start building the Earth in 3D with playdough. They can start building a full Earth or a section view with layers of the Earth. They can also include blue for oceans and green for continents.

However, the tastier option is to mix cooking with geology! Why don’t you prepare a crepe or even better a pizza representing the Earth layers? You already have the crust!

2. Volcanoes

Volcanic activity is a topic closely linked to Earth layers. The fire, smoke and lava coming out of these mountains is always a fascinating and awe-inspiring natural show. You can start with theory and learn the names of the different parts of a volcano, which can be sometimes complicated: magma, crater, bedrock, sill, etc. A volcano worksheet will set the basis for future fun experiments and activities. Besides, you will also find plenty of amazing visual material online, such as photos, videos and documentaries for all ages.

Just like Earth layers, volcanoes can be represented by drawing or cutting colored pieces of paper. You can also build a 3D playdough or clay model in section view. Older pupils can even build a full complex model of a volcano. This activity develops artistic skills to build the volcano and also experimental skills and chemistry knowledge to recreate an eruption. This is a timeless classic experiment in science class. You just need liquid dishwashing soap, baking soda, vinegar and red food coloring to recreate this scary yet beautiful natural phenomenon in the classroom.

The Solar System

The Solar System - Tips - Blog SKOOLGO
Photo by Alex Andrews from Pexels

Kids hear a lot of words and expressions like star, planet, galaxy, universe, solar system or Milky Way without understanding what it means. That is why teachers and parents should explain these things one step at a time with the help of didactic materials. For the youngest learners, a simple solar system worksheet where we can see a smiling sun and its 8 planets (Farewell Pluto!) can be a great introduction to how our galaxy works.

After learning the names of the planets and their position in respect to the Sun, kids can start focusing on grasping the different sizes and distances from our star. They can do this by creating a model that respects the scale. Beware: you will need a huge yellow ball or balloon to represent the Sun and tiny balls such as marbles to represent the smallest planets, which also happen to be the closest to our star: Mercure, Venus, Earth and Mars.

You can actually use a wide variety of objects to represent the planets: drawings and colored papers, playdough, paper mâché, recycled bottle caps, balloons and even fruits!

If you want to focus more on the distance from the Sun, you can create a 3D model. There are different ways to do it. You can use gravity and hang the Styrofoam planets from sticks or coat hangers. You can also create a large Sun in Styrofoam and plant straws or sticks of different length, at the end of which you will place the different planets according to their distance from the Sun.


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