When I was a kid I loved my LEGOs. Living in Germany during my childhood meant that I had access to sets that kids here in the United States couldn’t get. Little did I know that while I was building cities I was learning. Now, LEGOs are used in a number of ways to educate kids of all ages. Check out the infographic below to find out about the building blocks of education. Continue Reading →
Wow! What a day yesterday! As the weather forecast cleared up for the evening I was excited to catch a glimpse of the transit of Venus. I left work a half hour early so that I could setup my telescope and get everything in order.
I’d decided to project an image from my telescope on to a whiteboard. This would allow my kids to see the transit easily and also allow me to point out what was happening.
As the time of transit approached, clouds started to roll in and obscure my view of the sun. I thought for sure I’d be clouded out. I was losing hope. Then the clouds cleared and at 6:05 pm EST I could see the beginning of the transit!As the event progressed I called my 6 kids over and each of them looked through the #14 welder’s glass I had from the 2004 transit. They were mostly excited that they could see the sun but the older ones were really excited to see Venus passing in from of the sun. As Venus proceeded past ingress I pointed it out to them on the projected image.
After about 40 minutes the skies darkened again and the sun was setting below the tree line. Earlier, I’d though to go to a local park but had nixed the idea because of the cloud cover. I didn’t want to drag out the telescope and whiteboard only to stand around for 2 hours and see nothing.
As I was putting away my telescope I looked North and noticed the skies were clearing. Decision time: do I take the telescope to the park? I decided head to the park. I grabbed some snacks for 3 of my kids and we were off.
When we got there the skies were mostly clear! I was kicking myself for not bringing the telescope. We did have the welder’s glass, however, and proceeded to watch the transit.Since we were near a parking lot and there was a much lower tree line here than at my house we got a full hour of additional observing.
In addition to sharing this with my 12, 10, & 9 year-old kids, we shared it with many people in the park as their baseball and soccer games were ending. We grabbed everyone within reach and asked them if the want to see Venus.
Some were skeptical at first (one guy thought I was trying to sell him something) but once they looked at it themselves the wonder and amazement on their faces was very rewarding.
Young children, parents, and grandparents all were amazed by the tiny black spot in front of the sun. Many had heard that this even was occurring but didn’t think it could be see without any special equipment (besides solar shades or welder’s glass).
What a great experience! I was able to do some homeschooling in action with my kids and share this marvelous event with approximately 50 other people. The only regret I have is not bringing my telescope and whiteboard to the park. I’ll be sure to remember it in 2117.
The past two months I’ve done a monthly blog post about astronomy and the things you can observe from your own backyard that people have observed for thousands of years. This month, rather than talk about multiple events, I want to focus on one major event: the transit of Venus across the disc of the sun.
This rare astronomical event will not happen again for another 105 years! Arguably, nobody alive today will see it again (unless you’re frozen and then thawed out when it happens again). The previous transit occurred in 2004 and it was a sight to behold! You won’t want to miss this year’s transit.
I was able to observe this marvelous event in 2004 when it last occurred. The photo at the beginning of this post is one of the images I captured during the event. You can view others in a photo gallery. I can tell you that it is a sight to behold! Seeing another planet pass between the earth and the sun really helps you realize the special place we have in our solar system.
I’ve compiled a number of resources that you can use to find out more about this event. Don’t forget your eye protection when you look up!
As I find more resources that I think will be beneficial, I’ll continue to add them to this post.
I posted this video to YouTube in 2006. It’s the most “viral” video I’ve ever produced—receiving over 300,000 views.
It’s a simple instructional video showing you how to modify an old webcam to use with a telescope. You could even adapt this for use with a microscope if it has interchangeable eyepieces. Simple hacks like this are a fun way to introduce your kids to scientific topics.
Grab that telescope that’s been collecting dust in your basement or closet and go out at night a make some moon videos! Post them on YouTube or send them to me and I’ll be happy to include them here. If you post your video on YouTube, put a link to it in the comments below.
Once you’ve hacked your webcam, check out this article on capturing images and how to use your new toy.