My oldest child spent his second grade year studying astronomy in Science. We used Apologia’s Exploring Creation With Astronomy course and it was wonderful! He enjoyed it so much that he now wants to become an astronaut or a NASA engineer! We finished up the year by completing one week of super cool homeschool astronomy projects from the book. These projects are simple to complete and perfect for elementary students.
Check them out here and try them with your kiddos this summer!
7 Engaging Homeschool Astronomy Projects
1. Balloon Solar System
We started off our series of projects with a balloon model of the solar system. We tried to keep the sizes in order so that W could see how small some planets (like Earth) are to others. This project just required 10 balloons and some air. Pluto was included here, but it was moved to the side a bit.
Start with the sun and make your way through all of the planets. If you have forgotten the order, just remember this–> My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pies…Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto.
You can even get a little fancier here with solar system balloons that model the physical attributes of each planet!
2. Salt Dough Model of Mercury
Our next project was a little messier. We molded a model of Mercury, complete with craters, using a homemade salt dough.
Dough Recipe: 1 cup white flour, 1/4 cup salt, 1 tsp vegetable oil, and 1/4 cup water
Just mix these ingredients together in a large bowl and roll it into a ball. You can add a few extra drops of water if you need to. Your child can pretend that a rock, pebble, or marble is an asteroid crashing into the planet making craters. Craters can also be added by using the point and eraser ends of a pencil.
3. Volcanoes on Venus
#3 on our list of homeschool astronomy projects is a Venus Volcano. We created a very simple, small scale volcano with homemade lava to study. To do this yourself, you will need: 1/4 stick butter, 1/2cup -1 cup flour, a large plate, a small bowl, and a saucepan.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Put the small bowl upside down on top of the plate. Sprinkle flour around the bowl until it resembles a volcano.
Slowly pour the butter over the top of the bowl. It will roll down the flour in little streams just like lava flowing down the sides of a volcano. Let it sit out for a few hours and observe the changes.
You can tell your child that the butter here represents rock. It started solid, then turned into a liquid when it was heated, then solidified again as it cooled off.
4. Make a Hurricane Tube
This project helps a child to visualize what the Great Red Spot (basically a huge hurricane) on Jupiter looks like.
Gather 2 soda bottles, a 1 inch washer, and some tape (electrical or duct tape works best, but I improvised) to make this hurricane tube.
Fill one bottle 2/3 full of water.
Place the 1-inch washer on top of this bottle. Put the second bottle on top of the first and tape them together. Flip the bottles upside down and swirl!
5. Build a Model Space Station
This might have been my son’s top pick out of all of our homeschool astronomy projects because he was able to play with Legos for a couple of hours and he was totally intrigued by the International Space Station. Instead of building what the Space Station looks like on the outside, he recreated the interior and he made a satellite to go along with it.
You can also use the International Space Station Lego Set instead of mixed & matched Legos like we did.
6. Make an Astrometer
During one lesson, we learned how astronomers measure the brightness of stars. Each star is given a grade between 1 & 4 with 1 being the brightest. This project allows us to grade stars just like the astronomers…well, pretty close anyway.
You will need: a rectangular piece of cardboard, plastic wrap, scissors, tape, and a marker.
Cut 4 rectangles out of the cardboard. I started off using the scissors, but I switched to a box cutter because it was much more efficient. Wrap one layer of plastic wrap around all four cut-outs.
Wrap a second layer over the top three cut-outs, a third layer over the top two, and a fourth layer over only the top. Use your marker to label the grades for each section. Write “1” next to the cut-out with four layers of wrap, “2” next to the cut-out with three layers, “3” beside the two layer section, and “4” beside the one layer section.
Now you can look through the astronomer at night to determine the apparent brightness of whatever star your child wants to grade. Start out looking through #4 and work your way up. The stars that you can still see through #1 are the brightest stars.
7. Create a Constellation Planetarium
This project allows you to create a planetarium right in your living room! All you need is a cardboard box, flashlight, scissors, skewer or ice pick, and a marker.
Cut a hole in one side of the box just big enough for the flashlight to fit into. Use the marker to make dots on the opposite side of the box in the shape of your child’s favorite constellation. We chose the Big Dipper. Now you or your child can poke holes in the box where the dots are.
Turn off the lights and place the flashlight in the hole. Now your child can see his or her favorite constellation on the wall or the ceiling!