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Universe in the Curriculum

The first object in the sky to fascinate children is the moon. The fact that it can change its appearance is noticed by them very early. Likewise, the stars – the twinkling, the brightness and the patterns attract children.

These fascinations can become starting points to exploration of the sky – the constant motion of stars in the night sky; the variety of starts; the constellations.

The rising and setting of the sun, the lengthening and shortening of shadows, the path of the sun in the sky and the changing colours of the sky are also a fertile ground for children's exploration. Exploration of shadows can also be a good beginning to the study of light.

Sun related phenomena is easy to explore. But the long term nature of these experiments may be a challenge. For children it is a good training in sustaining interest. Explanations of phenomena, where the concepts could be beyond children's understanding may be avoided.

The initial exploration will lead to many questions about the periodicity, movement, size of the celestial objects, their distances and the most inevitable question of life elsewhere in the universe. These questions emerge from the natural curiosity of children.

The study of the universe is an introduction – to make observations; to analyse the consequences of the rotation and the revolution of the earth; to think of astronomical distances and sizes; to comprehend the order prevalent in the universe.

The exposure to newspapers and the television keeps children aware of rockets and spacecrafts, the various space exploration missions and the instruments used for these explorations. The internet has also emerged as a good repository of audio-visual material, especially in this subject. On one hand the complexity of the missions strike children, while on the other the immense possibilities of the explorations fascinates them.

The fascination children have for colour photographs and the easy availability of such pictures will make it easy to facilitate children's collections, activities, project work, explorations and study. Such material can form a good starting point.

The movement of the celestial bodies and related changes are also a fascinating phenomena. However. the cause effect relationships associated with the phases of the moon, the annual movement of the sun, or the motion of the planets can be complicated and beyond the primary child's capability.

Keeping track of these motions and changes can be fun and informative. Simple inferences of regularity and periodicity will help children relate these to calenders in general and days, months and years in particular. Older children can also explore zodaical constellations and their relationship to the annual cycle of months.

The sky has been an object of fascination and imagination for thousands of years. Stories and myths abound in every culture. Every star, every constellation, every planet and phenomena has been the source of such tales.

An exploration of such literature will not only be instructive but also be a good link to the study of language and culture.

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