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Family ASTRO

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Review Synopsis: by afterschool program expert Tom Bromage

Family Astro's Night Sky Adventure is described as a "kit of astronomy activities to introduce families to the wonders of the night sky." The leader kit includes essential materials and a detailed guide with information and tips to allow even an inexperienced group leader to run engaging, informative education events. Family Astro's Cosmic Decoders activities are designed "to turn families into code breakers of messages from space." The first set of these activities teaches participants how to find objects in the night sky; the second set teaches how to interpret light and sound through a series of activities and experiments.

The materials provided in Family Astro's Night Sky Adventure engage participants in a first-rate learning experience because of their high-quality, hands-on, inquiry-based designs. Identifying deep space objects, which may commonly be thought of as a daunting task, is transformed into an enjoyable, interactive task with Cosmic Decoders.
Full Review:
Family Astro's Night Sky Adventure engages participants in a first-rate learning experience because of its high-quality, hands-on, inquiry-based design. The materials, especially A Celestial Treasure Hunt, are appropriate for almost any age and ability, and beckon the user to become the scientist by engaging him or her with clues to encountering heavenly objects and fascinating facts about them. The inclusion of the National Audubon Society First Field Guide: Night Sky provides an opportunity for more in-depth reviews of celestial objects and background information for the group leader or interested participants. The "Cosmic Decoders" card set offers spectacular images from the Hubble Telescope and interesting facts about the deep space objects.

The activities are designed to stimulate interaction within the researching group as well as among the larger group participating in the activity. Because participants are put in the role of scientists, they are compelled to ask questions of one another. This allows perceptions to be modified and hypotheses to be tested as the user prepares for stargazing.

Web sites with related content let the participants pursue additional information at home or in a library. This self-directed learning can lead to group discussions and sharing of findings.

Identifying deep space objects, which may commonly be thought of as a daunting task, is transformed into an enjoyable, interactive task with Cosmic Decoders.

Night Sky Adventure can be implemented in a wide range of afterschool organizations by instructors with varied abilities. The Leader Kit provides explicit, easy-to-follow instructions that require minimum preparation.

A Celestial Treasure Hunt is a guide to finding constellations. In addition to detailed maps, the guide provides the gazer with important preparation tips: warm clothing, a moonless sky, a flashlight, and a sense of direction. These tips are crucial for success for the less experienced star-gazer and assure the participant comfort while gazing at the heavens.

A highlight of Cosmic Decoders is Galactic Gobble, a card game where players learn statistics about objects while playing a game in which the larger object consumes the smaller.

The Leader Kit for Night Sky Adventure clearly details each lesson. The stations and activities are user friendly and do not assume that the facilitator has extensive knowledge of astronomy. Lessons are laid out with explicit objectives in the "What's This About?" section. "Materials Included" and "Materials You'll Need To Get" leave no doubt as to what you will need to attain the objective. Finally, the straightforward procedural explanations and the uncomplicated materials make for experiments that are easy for participants of nearly any age.

The materials that come with the kits are essential for these experiments, but may also be useful for additional astronomy lessons. The quality of the reusable materials and the relatively inexpensive consumables let the facilitator repeat the sessions without a large financial burden. It is easy to find the materials that are not included in the Leader Kit package.

The star wheel, star finder, and the other materials mentioned above should last a number of years with minimal wear and tear. The Leader Kit also includes materials that may be photocopied for further use. As for Cosmic Decoders, the materials are indispensable, and also may be useful for additional astronomy lessons.

The curriculum seems to run parallel with the findings of the National Research Council's findings published in National Science Education Standards.