A is for Astronomy

Welcome to the “A is for Astronomy” unit hub, a preschool thematic unit about space! Below, you’ll find everything you need to complete this unit at home. Although these lessons were designed for my home schooled preschooler, they can certainly be amended for use in a classroom setting.

A is for Astronomy

Please note that some of the links included in my unit plans 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!

An Astronomy Primer For Parents/Teachers

One of my favorite things about teaching is how much I learn in the lesson prep stage. While you don’t need to become an astronomy expert overnight, a working vocabulary can be helpful when talking to little “why?” monsters! Here’s some astronomy basics, to help you brush up on your terminology before you start!

About Astronomy

Astronomy is the study of the stars, planets, and space. It shouldn’t be mistaken with astrology, which isn’t a scientific study.

People who study these things are called astronomers. There are many other careers associated with astronomy, like aerospace engineer, astrophysicist, computer systems analyst, electrical engineer, geophysicist, mathematician, photographer, professor, physicist, research scientist, software developer or engineer, statistician, telescope engineer, and more.

About Our Solar System

Our solar system is our sun (Sol) and all of the things orbiting it. The Sun is the center of the solar system. We have eight major planets and five dwarf planets (you may remember Pluto, which used to be classified as a full-fledged planet, but was downgraded to a dwarf!). All of these planets revolve around the Sun, each with their own distance.

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The eight major planets (from closest to furthest from the Sun) are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

Terminology

asteroid – a rock (or minor planet) orbiting the Sun
astronaut – a trained crew member of a spacecraft
atmosphere – the gaseous air surrounding a planet
comet – a small frozen mass of gas and dust orbiting the Sun, often featuring a tail
constellation – a group of stars that have been given names by ancient astronomers for their appearance
galaxy – a large group of stars, planets, dust, gas, and other matter held together by gravity (we are in the Milky Way galaxy)
gravity – the force of attraction between two objects, the amount of gravity depends on the weight of the objects (for instance, Earth and the Sun have a lot of weight and therefore a lot of gravity) and their distance
meteor – the bright trail of light caused by a meteorite entering Earth’s atmosphere and burning up (thus the light)
meteorite – a meteoroid that survives Earth’s atmosphere and strikes Earth’s surface
meteoroid – a small rock or particle in our Solar System, ranging in size from a piece of dust to boulder sized (any larger would be an asteroid)
moons – natural satellites that orbit a planet, due to the planet’s gravitational pull
NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is a government agency dedicated to exploring aeronautics (flight research) and space
planets – large (larger than an asteroid), natural objects that orbit around stars (we orbit around the Sun)
solar system – the Sun and all the planets and objects that revolve around it, it gets its name from “Sol” (another word for sun) and the system around it
space – the unlimited expanse in which everything is located, also “Universe”
stars – huge, glowing balls of gases (like our Sun)
sun – the star at the center of a solar system, our sun is also called Sol 


What We’ll Explore

This section explains the essential questions and objectives of each targeted learning area.

“Essential questions” are the questions that I’ll strive to answer this week. I also like to ask my little learners for their own “essential questions”, or questions they want to find out the answers to.

“Objectives” are the skills and knowledge that my little learners will acquire through our activities, reading, and exploration of our essential questions.

You can, of course, amend this list to meet whatever learning goals are appropriate for your child. If you aren’t sure where to start, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or submit a question on the contact page!

Language & Literacy

Essential Questions: What are letters? What is the letter A? What sound does the letter A make? How do I draw the letter A?

Objectives: Identify and draw the letter A. Identify the sound that A makes.

Mathematics

Essential Questions: How do I count objects? What do numbers look like? How can I represent numerical values? What do circles look like? How do I draw a circle? What do stars look like? How do I draw a star? How can I compare two shapes?

Objectives: Count to 8 verbally and using tangible items. Identify numbers 1-8. Identify and draw a circle. Identify and draw a star. Make comparisons between two shapes.

 

Science

Essential Questions: What is astronomy? How do we explore space? How many planets are in our solar system? What do they look like? How can I see other planets from Earth?

Objectives: Define astronomy in a developmentally appropriate way. Identify and compare planets.

Social Studies

Essential Questions: What do astronauts and astronomers do? Who has gone to space? How do they get to space?

Objectives: Learn about the people who have helped us understand space and how they’ve learned about space.

Motor Development

Essential Questions: How can I use my body to move objects? How do I throw? How do I aim? How can I use my body to create things?

Objectives:  Use hands and arms to move and throw objects. Practice throwing and aiming. Use fingers and hands to create.


Activities for the Week

I’ve organized the activities into a week format. Move at your own pace though. Switch activities around, take breaks, add or remove elements. Make it work for you. Sometimes we go through units in just a few days and sometimes it takes weeks.

The most important thing to remember is that learning and exploration should be fun and hands-on. If they’re not enjoying the lesson, you find you’re doing the bulk of the “work”, or you’re struggling to hold their attention, it’s okay to stop or even skip something.

Preschool activities shouldn’t be the bulk of your day or done in one sitting. Remember that your child’s attention span is short (2-5 minutes per year of age, so a 3 year old may only be able to focus on a single task for 6-15 minutes) and trying to work past that will only end in frustration for both of you!

Unit Resources

A is for Astronomy | Projects for Little Hands

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


Monday

Introduction

I like to introduce a new subject through some kind of media, whether that’s a book or video. We opted to read There’s No Place Like Space, because it’s a frequent favorite at our house! You can also look through this unit’s books and media list for a different idea, if this one isn’t right for you.

After we read/watch, I ask what questions Ruby has and what she learned. It’s a great way to get an idea of where their natural interests lie, so you can help them explore those more thoroughly!

I like to write down her questions with her and then post the list somewhere prominent, so that we can revisit it as we learn. When we answer one of her questions, I let her put a big checkmark next to it! You can download a printable of this list here: My Questions About Astronomy.

Language & Literacy

This week, we’ll be discussing the letter “A”. You can click here (ASTRONOMY) for a printable of the word “astronomy” to use for this introduction.

My dialogue looks something like this:
“Now, do you know what letter Astronomy starts with? (Point to A)
A! Astronomy starts with the letter A.
All letters make sounds. A makes an ‘ah’ sound. Ah-stronomy. Can you say it?”

Then, we sing the Letter Song to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”.
“A says ‘ah’, A says ‘ah’
Every letter makes a sound
A says ‘ah’
Astronomy starts with A
Astronomy starts with A
A says ‘ah’ to start the word
Astronomy starts with A”

Then, we practice tracing A with our fingers. We also brainstorm (or make a list of) other words that start with A. Sometimes they’ll need a lot of prompting with this list, but it’ll get easier as they practice!

Mathematics

It’s time to teach your little learner about how many planets are in our Solar System!

I start by asking, “Do you know how many planets there are in our Solar System?” Depending on how much science reading you’ve done before, they may surprise you and already know.

Then, watch this super fun video of the Solar System Song! My daughters love Mother Goose Club and this song is no exception.

After you’ve watched the video, reinforce that there are eight planets in the Solar System. You can practice counting to 8 too.

Science

If they’re really excited to talk about space and astronomy more, consider printing and building this little “The Solar System Book“. Each page features a planet and one fun fact about it.

Motor Development

Here’s a really simple and fun outdoor activity. Cover a frisbee with tin foil and decorate it to look like a UFO. Then, practice tossing it back and forth!


Tuesday

Language & Literacy

Reinforce your unit learning by singing the Letter Song again.

Then, practice finding the letter A. You can use manipulatives like flashcards, alphabet pasta, or magnets, or even just write random letters on a piece of paper with lots of As! If you have a lot of print writing in your home, make it a real life letter search and hunt for As around the house instead!

Finally, practice tracing and writing the letter A. You can use this printable worksheet (Letter A Tracing Sheet) or even use a workbook or your own handwriting to let them practice with.

Mathematics

Ask if they remember how many planets there are. If they can’t remember, it’s okay to prompt them or even watch the video again!

Then, ask them what shape they think planets are. Guide them towards “circle” (you can enrich here by talking about “spheres” instead, if that’s developmentally appropriate for your child).

Practice drawing circles to make your own planets. Encourage them to draw circles in different sizes and then use comparing words to describe them (“this circle is bigger than this circle”, “this circle is smaller than this circle”, or “this circle is the same size as this circle”). Once they feel confident about their circles, draw your own solar system! If you completed the Solar System Book activity from Monday, pull that out for reference too.

Motor Development

Remember that tin foil from Monday? Pull it out again and make tin foil balls (aka asteroids). Practice tossing your asteroids into a large bowl or even laundry basket! Since the “asteroids” are so light, you can even have an asteroid fight in the backyard!

Enrichment

Download and print this Planets Matching Game!


Wednesday

21078371_10155865611074610_2873125006600968542_nLanguage & Literacy

It’s time to get (a little) messy! Make some moon sand from this post. It’s super easy and will provide lots of fun outside of these lessons too. Then, use the ideas from the post and your own imaginations to practice writing the letter A with your moon sand.

I also highly recommend downloading this free printable book from TPT. It features an astronaut and uses lots of positional words to help your little learner develop those concepts.

Mathematics

Continue the fun with your moon sand, using number cookie cutters to cut out numbers and identify them. Your little scientist can also practice making groups of eight, like eight piles of moon sand, and counting them.

Science

Your little scientist may be curious about astronauts and space travel by now. You can learn more about them by watching one or both of these cute videos!


Explore that concept with books like Mousetronaut (written by a real astronaut, Mark Kelly!), If You Decide to Go to the Moon, Roaring Rockets, or any of the other books on our list!

Social Studies

For me, one of the most exciting part of astronomy is the firsts. There are just so many firsts, especially when it comes to groundbreaking astronauts. Check out the book list for suggested biographical books about “first” astronauts.


Thursday

Language & Literacy

Start your day by making your A page for your Science ABCs Book! You can read more about the book in its completion here, but for now, all you’ll need is a piece of card stock, tempera paint, markers, and a foot!

Dip your little scientist’s foot into tempera paint (we used white) and have them make a footprint on a piece of card stock (we used black). Let it dry while you clean up their foot. Then, turn your footprint into a space shuttle using markers and/or paint. Write “A is for Astronomy” on the top of the page and then let them practice writing “A”s at the bottom of the page.

Mathematics

Print this adorable color by number sheet to practice both color and number recognition! I particularly like this coloring sheet because it gives your little learner the opportunity to assign colors to numbers and take control of the project, instead of just following directions.

We’ve talked about planets and astronauts, so now it’s time to learn about stars and constellations with this cute video introduction.

Explain that stars are in the sky, but they’re also shapes here on Earth. Draw a star for them to see or use a worksheet like this one. Let them practice tracing and then draw their own. This can be really fun to do with white or yellow chalk on black construction paper for a “night sky” effect.

Motor Development

To continue the star shape study, break out a star-shaped stamp and ink pads. Let them practice inking and stamping stars to create their own night sky work of art!

Science

Break out your pipe cleaners and pony beads to make your own constellations. You can find all the details here.

You can also make a constellation snack using pretzels and marshmallows!


Friday

Enrichment

It’s Friday Fun Day! Make one of our fun space-themed snacks and turn on Bill Nye or one of the movies from our list!

Science

Keeping with Friday Fun Day theme, it’s time to blast off into space with your imaginations! Make a space shuttle out of a cardboard box and have fun exploring space with all the new information you’ve learned!

Parent Project

If you’re going to be keeping up with your Science ABCs Book, gather up all your projects from this week and add them to your book!


Additional Enrichment

Field Trips

Look at your local museum, science center, or planetarium for relevant field trips you could take. We love visiting the Infinity Science Center (which is also the NASA Visitor’s Center for Stennis Space Center).

More Letter Practice

Letter A Writing Practice Worksheet
A Dot Marker Worksheet (Ruby is obsessed with her dot markers!)
A Coloring Sheet

Pop Culture

Use your little scientist’s screen time to introduce them to astronomy in shows and movies they’d already be watching. Head over to the list for specific suggestions!

Toys & Games

If you have a telescope at home, this is the perfect time to let them explore the night sky! Also, check out NASA’s Kids Club and other fun online resources from our list!

Crafts & Projects

If you’ve already done the crafts associated with this unit, consider making a model solar system. This can be done with a kit like this one or with foam balls and clay from the craft store!

Download a bunch of cute astronaut themed coloring pages here.

Learn about making straw rockets here.