What To Look For in a High School Astronomy Curriculum


A high school astronomy curriculum can offer students the opportunity to embrace the wonders of the universe, develop critical thinking skills, and even pursue future careers in scientific fields. By fostering an understanding of astronomy that is both enriching and compatible with personal beliefs, educators and parents can encourage a new generation of young minds to reach for the stars. Let’s take a look at what makes a good astronomy curriculum for high school

What to Look for in a High School Astronomy Curriculum

Astronomy is a subject that is filled with wonder. As a science, it allows a child to be immersed in the wonder of creation. Practically, it brings together physics, history, mathematics, earth sciences, and philosophy. Astronomy is a science that leads naturally to the questions of origins and our place in the Universe. Many Christian parents can shy away from Astronomy as a subject, fearful that the ideas are anti-God, or that it is too akin to astrology.

Astronomy or Astrology

Astronomy is a science concerned with the study of space; it is practiced within the confines of scientific thinking and the laws of nature. Astrology is an ancient belief in the power of the stars to determine our actions on earth. Therefore, it is a form of divination. Astrology is not something Christians dabble in. It is true early stargazers also practiced astrology in the same way early chemists were alchemists. This has resulted in terms that are used in astrology to be in astronomy, for example, the names of the constellations that form the zodiac. But a child studying the science of astronomy is not practicing astrology or divination.

Understanding The Science of Astronomy

Astronomers use telescopes to understand the workings of the heavens. The work of great thinkers like Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Isaac Newton unlocked the precision of the Solar System. The mathematical equations of Kepler and Newton explain the motion of the Solar System. We see through their work such beauty and design, which makes us think of a Creator. Today, the powerful instruments available are unlocking the mysteries of neutron stars, black holes, dark matter, and beauty beyond the wildest imaginations of Galileo when he first looked at the heavens in his telescope.

Astronomy Basics

Finding an astronomy curriculum to unlock these wonders of the sky can set your child on a lifelong love of space. Is your child already hooked on space? Then, you’ll want to find a curriculum to build on their knowledge and take them further. Find a curriculum that first helps them navigate the night sky. Being able to pick out key features in the night sky and understand how the sky changes through the seasons is key to going further with Astronomy. Incorporating hands-on astronomy projects into your high school astronomy curriculum will provide your teens with a practical application (lab work!) needed for high school science courses.

Even in a more urban environment, brighter naked-eye objects like the moon and bright stars like Rigel are visible. Many of the planets, like Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, can be found easily if you know when and where to look. A good basic astronomy curriculum will help you navigate this. If you live near an observatory it is worth finding out if they do beginner stargazing sessions. Then, a starry night will forever be a thing of wonder.

High School Astronomy Curriculum

For teens building on this foundation, the next step is a deeper understanding of the science underpinning the cosmos. High schoolers should look at how stars are powered by nuclear fusion and the science of our sun. Studying the sun gives insight into all stars. With a good astronomy curriculum, teens will understand why studying the light from individual stars reveals the chemical composition of the star that emitted it. They can use a mathematical explanation to understand the orbits of planets and the expansion of the universe through the study of the redshift of galaxies. The actual math skills a high school student is already learning will be applied to the understanding of space. 

Students may want to find an Introduction to Astronomy course, or for those who are passionate, there is an honors-level, 2-year Astronomy course. This course is based on the GCSE astronomy course requirements for UK students. Astronomy and Astrophysics are both potential degrees at a university. For a student looking to make a career out of space, they will need to be strong in mathematics and physics, and Astronomy is a course that may even be required for some science degree programs.

Astronomy Websites for All Ages

There are many great websites for kids who love space. Here a few favorites.

  1. National Schools Observatory: this is a fantastic educational website that has great resources for kids to explore space and space science.
  2. Stellarium: This website allows you to see live what the night sky is like in your location. It is a fantastic stargazing tool. You can use it on your desktop, or there is an app to download onto your phone. This astronomy software is brilliant; my son described it as “so cool!”
  3. NASA: NASA has a wealth of knowledge available, including as resources for kids of all grade levels. They also have websites for their telescopes. You can see the images from the Hubble Space Telescope or the new James Webb Telescope.
  4. James Webb Telescope: NASA’s latest telescope is re-writing our understanding of space. The images produced reveal in great detail the wonders of the Solar System, the Milky Way Galaxy, as well as deep space objects. 

Fun Star Gazing Activities Teens Love

  • Create a stargazing journal. This is like a nature journal. But it will document what you observe. Make notes of the everyday stars you discover, as well as special astronomical events like a lunar eclipse or a comet.
  • For a month, watch the changing phases of the moon. Sketch the lunar phases.
  • Try to learn a constellation a month. Research the mythology behind the constellation. This helps the child remember it if they have a story to tell.
  • If there is a meteor shower, wrap up warm, make hot chocolate, and take blankets outside. Then, lie back and enjoy the beauty.

Astronomy Curriculum: High School

There are a variety of ideas to consider when looking for a faith-based astronomy curriculum for your high school child. To begin studying space, consider Introduction to Astronomy or the honors-level Astronomy course. Stargazing as a child can develop a lifelong passion for astronomy in your homeschooler’s life. They will never tire of looking up to the heavens and gazing at the glorious sight of a dark sky filled with stars. It may also develop their curiosity to understand more about Creation.

Shannan

About the author

Shannan shares her passion for helping others use the world as their classroom at Captivating Compass. Her home base is in Scotland, where she home educates and learns on location throughout Europe as much as possible. She creates digital curricula that promotes a broad worldview through creative learning and family travel experiences (in person & virtually).

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