B is for Big Bang | Children’s Books and Other Media About the Big Bang and Universe

Here is a complete list of books, movies, TV shows, and other media to accompany the B is for Big Bang thematic unit for the Science ABCs!

Please note that some of the links included are affiliate links. That means that if you follow the link and purchase something, I earn a small commission for my recommendation. This support helps keep my resources free and is much appreciated!

Books

These books are all Science Mom tested and Science Kid approved! They aren’t just random recommendations, but all live on our bookshelves at home.

Click the book picture to be taken straight to Amazon’s details about the book!

Picture Books About the Big Bang

Other Picture Books for This Unit

Online Videos

About the Big Bang

About the Universe and Solar System

About Atoms

About Numbers

Online Kids’ Games About Space

NASA Space Place

NASA Kids Club

NatGeo Kids – Space Janitor

Discovery Kids Space Games

Magic School Bus Space Games

Have a resource you’d like to see included? Leave a comment or contact us!

The Best Telescopes for Little Scientists

img_2215The stars are one of our first scientific curiosities as children. I think we can all remember the first time that we really looked up at the night sky and realized that there was an entire universe out there, not just ourselves or our families or our planet.

We all look up at the same beautiful, twinkling, infinite universe, but many with no idea of the magic it holds.

A good telescope is the gateway to unlock all of that magic and wonder (even in a tutu, as you see my daughter pictured here in our makeshift concrete block observatory!).

It’s nothing short of inspiring and is probably the easiest way to get kids excited about science and technology.

Please note that some of the links included are affiliate links. That means that if you follow the link and purchase something, I earn a small commission for my recommendation. This support helps keep my resources free and is much appreciated, so please consider using the link if you decide to purchase something from one of my posts!

How to Choose the Right Telescope

Not all telescopes are created equal. Many telescopes that are marketed to children are, quite frankly, pretty useless for the price. Here’s how to pick the best telescope for your family.

How Telescopes Work

Telescopes allow us to take a closer look at objects that are far away. They do this in two ways, by collecting more light and magnifying the image. A telescope can be as simple as two lenses, or much, much more complicated.

Aperture

Aperture (or sometimes called objective) is the diameter of the lens or mirror that’s used to collect light (or photons).

Remember that when you’re looking at celestial objects, you’re really looking at light, and that’s why aperture is so important. A bigger lens or mirror means a sharper and brighter image. The further away they are, the fainter their light is. It doesn’t matter how much you magnify a dark image – it’ll still be a dark image. Bring on the light!

If you live in a suburban or urban area, you’ll want a larger aperture (more light) to help cut through some of the light noise from your surroundings. If you live in a rural area, you can make do with a smaller aperture. However, you should aim for at least 70mm and remember that when it comes to aperture, more is always more, no matter where you are.

Magnification

The lens at the eyepiece is responsible for making the image look larger (magnified). A good eyepiece can magnify images, no matter how much aperture (light) your telescope collects. However, like I said before, a dark image magnified is still a dark image… and not much fun to look at. That’s why magnification isn’t as important as aperture.

Despite many marketing tricks claiming things like “500x magnification”, that’s unrealistic without incredibly high (and expensive) aperture and not really necessary. Magnification of just 50x will reveal all kinds of wonders from our solar system.

Types of Telescopes

A refractor is the “classic” telescope, much like the one Galileo used when he peered into the night sky. It uses a lens to collect light (aperture) and has an eyepiece (magnification). This design is rugged and good on the go, but does present a mirror image of the sky.

A reflector telescope uses a mirror to collect light (aperture) and was invented by Newton. Unlike a refractor, reflector telescopes present you with an image as it appears in the sky. This can be useful for little scientists trying to follow a star map, but they do require some occasional maintenance.

Then, there are compound telescopes that use components of both refractors and reflectors in their design. These designs are powerful, but not necessary for little astronomers!

Longevity vs. Budget

There are hundreds and hundreds of telescopes to choose from and hundreds and hundreds of good options. It really comes down to what you want to spend now, how much ease of use you want, and how long you want to keep the same telescope for.

Personally, I opted for a budget-friendly and easy-to-use telescope for my girls. I’m excited about the possibilities of their next telescope, but I wanted them to find their current telescope accessible and fun. Also, if their scientific interests carry them to other places than the night sky, I won’t be left heart broken at the expense!

The Science Mom’s Telescope Picks

The Science Kids’ Telescope

My kids have the Celestron Firstscope telescope, a Netwonian reflector telescope.

We love this telescope for many reasons and I’d highly suggest it for anyone starting to dive into the world of stargazing.

  • The Firstscope has a 76mm primary mirror, which collects enough light for us to make out awesome detail in the night sky, from the moon’s craters to Saturn’s rings.
  • It comes with 20mm and 4mm eyepieces, which gives us two ways to observe the night sky.
  • We have up to 75x magnification power.
  • The telescope has a tabletop style base that rotates, making it stable and easy to use with two little ones.
  • The optical tube is decorated with the names of famous scientists and astronomers. I love the symbolism as my girls stand on the shoulders thousands of brilliant minds before them as they gaze up into the sky.
  • It’s light enough to be easily transported around with us. Ruby can even carry it by herself.
  • Celestron has a free app (with in-app purchases) called SkyPortal that you can download to compliment your stargazing.

Other Beginner Telescopes

Orion Funscope

The Orion Funscope is similar in style to our Firstscope.

With 4.5 inch aperture and 25mm and 10mm eyepieces, you’ll be able to view objects with 50x magnification.

It also comes complete with a MoonMap and digital software download that allows you to view simulations of the night sky, great for little astronomers to learn their way around space.

Celestron Kids 50TT

The Celestron Kids 50TT is a basic refractor telescope that’s good for starting astronomers. It’s easy to set up and get to stargazing. With a 50mm aperture and 12.5mm eyepiece, it has 30x magnification.

This telescope is super lightweight, including its tabletop tripod, and comes with a carrying case to observe on the go.

Orion GoScope III 70mm

The Orion GoScope III 70mm is great for little astronomers on the move. It comes with a backpack to carry it around in!

With 70mm aperture and 20mm and 9mm eyepieces, this telescope has 44x magnification. It rests on an aluminum tripod. It also comes with a MoonMap and viewfinder to help locate objects before viewing through the telescope.

Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST

The Orion 09007 SpaceProbe 130ST is the ideal telescope for serious junior astronomers. This telescope is the priciest on my list, with good reason.

With a 130mm primary mirror, its aperture is almost double our Firstscope. It also comes with 25mm and 10mm eyepieces, allowing for 26-65x magnification. The SpaceProbe also comes with a finderscope to help find objects quickly. The aluminum tripod is lightweight and has an accessory tray to keep your other eyepiece close.

Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker

The Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker is another great option for more serious stargazers.

It has a 127mm aperture and 20mm and 4mm eyepieces, allowing for up to 250x magnification. It also comes with a 3x Barlow lens that triples the magnification of both eyepieces. This telescope rests on a tripod that also has an accessory tray to keep eyepieces and the Barlow lens easily accessible.

In addition to Celestron’s SkyPortal app, it also comes with “The Sky” software to help locate thousands of items in the night sky!

 

Do you have a telescope at home? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the LIGO Livingston Observatory

While watching a documentary on gravity, we discovered that LIGO was in our backyard (well, an hour away, but practically in our backyard)! I have no idea how we overlooked this for the last couple of years, but we headed out that very week to check it out!

About LIGO

LIGO stands for “laser interferometer gravitational-wave observatory” and is funded by the US National Science Foundation and run by MIT and Caltech. Put somewhat simply, LIGO is home to a bunch of incredible cutting edge technology that’s working to detect gravitational waves from violent phenomena around our universe.

LIGO_Events_TimelineThis project was inspired by Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves (ripples in time-space resulting from things like black holes colliding). Funding was secured in 1979, but site construction didn’t begin until the mid-90s. In 2008, construction began on Advanced LIGO. LIGO began its first observing run in September 2015 and by September 14th, it had observed its first gravitational wave. It has since detected one other confirmed gravitational wave and others will likely be confirmed through intense data review.

The interferometers are pretty mind-boggling as a layperson, visiting the observatories. They are comprised of two 4-kilometer long vacuum chambers, built in an L-shape. These “legs” are long enough that Earth’s curved surface had a role in the design. An infrared laser is at the heart of the measurements and is shot through a series of mirrors down each one of these legs. LIGO can measure motion that’s about 1/10,000th of an atomic nucleus!

LIGO consists of four locations, two interferometers (one here in Livingston and one in Washington state) and two research centers (at MIT and Caltech). You can read a much more sophisticated and in depth version of LIGO’s history on their website here.

 

About LIGO’s Livingston Observatory

LIGO Livingston Science Saturdays

Because of the delicate nature of LIGO’s measurements, their facility only has limited times where it’s open to the public.

The best way to experience the Livingston Observatory is on “Science Saturdays”. These take place on the third Saturday of the month from 1:00 – 5:00 pm. On Science Saturday, visitors can explore the Science Education Center, lobby activities, and even take a tour of the control room. Each event has its own unique theme, so you can visit multiple times and have new experiences every month!

LIGO Livingston Science Education Center

img_3524LIGO’s Science Education Center is an incredible opportunity to get hands-on with all kinds of physical science. It’s truly a place for everyone.

There are activities geared for all ages and levels of scientific interest, with more than 50 interactive exhibits. We had so much fun exploring suspension, strobe lights, bright black, resonance, shadows, infrared rays, and more.

 

Our Favorite Parts of the LIGO Livingston Observatory

img_3635My favorite part was definitely the tour of the control room. Getting an inside look at such an incredible place and having the opportunity to ask questions to one of the working scientists was an unforgettable experience.

The girls loved the lobby activities and interacting with STEM students from close-by universities, but especially loved the soap bubble painting in the mini science museum area!

I loved that the entire family learned, explored, and had fun together. There were exhibits and information presented at levels for all of us. We can’t wait to go back!

 

Planning Your Visit to LIGO Livingston

Location

LIGO Livingston Observatory is located at 19100 LIGO Lane, Livingston, LA 70754. It’s an easy trip off of I-12, despite its somewhat rural location, and very well marked.

Hours, Parking, & Admission Cost

As noted above, LIGO is not open to the public regularly. If you plan to visit, make sure to check for Science Saturday dates on their website or contact them directly about scheduling a field trip or public tour.

After arriving through the main gate, follow the road to the right and look for parking signs. There is ample parking directly outside of the Science Education Center!

Visiting LIGO Livingston is FREE. That’s right, it’s totally free to experience all of the awe and wonder of LIGO!

 

 

Visiting LIGO Livingston with Toddlers and Young Children

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My girls really enjoyed all of the hands-on science. It’s definitely an engaging place for all ages, including toddlers! Some of the exhibits will require direction and assistance from adults, so be prepared to get engaged with your kids!

The tour is definitely geared towards an older audience, so make a judgment call about your kids’ attention spans and behavior. My girls hung in there for the first half of the tour, but by the end, they were ready to go play and didn’t care that mom was nerding out!

 

Have you ever visited LIGO? Have an idea for another Science Mom field trip? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

 

A is for Astronomy | Children’s Books and Other Media About Space

Here is a complete list of books, movies, TV shows, and other media to accompany the A is for Astronomy thematic unit for the Science ABCs!

Please note that some of the links included are affiliate links. That means that if you follow the link and purchase something, I earn a small commission for my recommendation. This support helps keep my resources free and is much appreciated!

Books

These books are all Science Mom tested and Science Kid approved! They aren’t just random recommendations, but all live on our bookshelves at home.

Picture Books About Space

Picture Books About Astronauts

Fiction Picture Books About Space

Online Videos

About Astronomy in General

Songs About the Planets

About Astronauts


Movies and TV Shows

Movies With a Space Theme

  

Educational Movies About Space

    

TV Shows With a Space Theme

  

Space Themed Shows Streaming on Netflix

Fishtronaut, Sid the Science Kid, Space Racers

Educational Shows About Space

   

Educational Shows Streaming on Netflix

Bill Nye the Science Guy, Cosmos, The Magic School Bus

 

Online Kids’ Games About Space

NASA Space Place

NASA Kids Club

NatGeo Kids – Space Janitor

Discovery Kids Space Games

Magic School Bus Space Games

 

Have a resource you’d like to see included? Leave a comment or contact us!

A is for Astronomy | Projects for Little Hands

For this unit, I decided to do three special astronomy based projects: moon sand, a cardboard space shuttle, and constellations.

Moon Sand {A Super Easy Recipe}

Making Moon Sand

rubymoonsand

Mix 4 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of baby (or vegetable) oil.

Voila! You’re done.

Really. It’s that easy. This is such a simple task that little hands can definitely help at every step of the way!

If you’re feeling fancy, try adding food coloring, glitter, small pebbles, extracts for scent… the possibilities are limitless! Adding a little black food coloring and glitter would give it a moon-like feeling.

Learning with Moon Sand

21078371_10155865611074610_2873125006600968542_nWe used our alphabet cutters to make the letter A (and others), molded the letter A out of sand, and traced A into the sand using fingers and other kitchen tools. We also used food coloring pens (Betty Crocker Easy Writers) to write on the sand!

Then, I let Ruby’s imagination run wild. She built all kinds of things and explored what she could and couldn’t do with the moon sand’s limitations.

Leave a comment and tell us what you did with it!

Storage

Unlike kinetic sand, this moon sand WILL dry out, so make sure to store it in an airtight container if you want to reuse it.

I keep a small stash of inexpensive plastic containers just for projects, so my nice stuff doesn’t disappear from my kitchen. You can find containers at the Dollar Tree or even wash out plastic food containers. I don’t recommend the latter for actual food storage (as they’re not meant to truly be reused), but for this kind of stuff, it’s great!

Cardboard Space Shuttle {A Creative Project}

Building the Space Shuttle

What You’ll Need:

  • A large cardboard box
  • Durable scissors
  • Paint and paintbrushes
  • Markers
  • Any other crafting supplies or household objects that you may desire (tin foil and random cap lids would be good ones!)

21231714_10155892348504610_5317496593823877564_nI tend to keep a stockpile of big Amazon boxes for projects just like this. We had the perfect large box, with room for both girls and low enough sides to allow them to get in and out unassisted.

We started by tucking in the shorter box flaps and cutting the longer box flaps to resemble wings. Then, Ruby painted the entire exterior white. We added a few details with paint and markers to make it more space shuttle like too.

If you want to take it one step further, you can also use another piece of cardboard (or the inside of the box) to make a “control panel”, with buttons, screens, and levers using markers, paint, and random household objects.

Learning About Space Shuttles

This is where it’s best to let a preschooler be a preschooler. Just let their imaginations lead the way as you blast off into space!

We also enjoyed watching some of NASA’s launch videos on YouTube!

Pipe Cleaner Constellations {Motor Skills Craft}

Making the Constellations

26733565_10156295039209610_3703965642611106383_nWhat You’ll Need:

  • Black pipe cleaners
  • Yellow pony beads
  • Pictures of the constellations
  • Dark construction paper (optional, for your background)

We started by discussing constellations. We have some awesome space books and have spent a lot of time at the Infinity Science Center, so the concept was familiar to Ruby. Still, it was fun to specifically talk about them and see her excitement about spotting them with her telescope later. We watched the video embedded below too. The characters are really adorable and gave a good primer!

Then, it was time to build our constellations. I pulled up a constellation map from Google Images and let her pick her favorite. She chose Gemini.

26731356_10156295039214610_7279221928615995597_n

The yellow pony beads represent the stars, while the pipe cleaners are the imaginary lines that astronomers use to connect constellations together. This is where the black paper background can come in handy, so the black pipe cleaners “disappear” into the blackness of “space”.

Ruby needed a little bit of help twisting the pony beads into place, but this was mostly a hands-off project for me! I really enjoyed watching her replicate the Gemini constellation and making some constellations of her own invention too!