Teaching Astronomy From An Early Childhood Age
In most cases, the first teachers we have in our lives are our parents. We know that a teacher’s job is finding the way to open a child’s heart and mind. Two beautiful ideas, but seldom does this happens inversely: the child teaches the parents.
Our daughter was four years old when she posed a lot of questions about the sky; we tried to translate our astronomical knowledge to her level and we observed that she understood many things. We tested our experiment firstly in a kindergarten in Romania, and then in a few kindergartens in Hungary and Austria. Our daughter helped us a lot in our experiment, and moreover, these little children taught us joy, happiness, playfulness, and gratitude. The results were amazing. These little children were very interested to learn about the Universe, and they could accumulate basic astronomical knowledge.
In 2010 we published our experiments in books written in four languages: English, German, Hungarian, and Romanian.
The book, entitled “First steps… one cannot start too soon. Teaching Astronomy to small children,” attempts to introduce teacher education in teaching astronomy to students in kindergarten, pre-school, and primary school, and, as the title shows, it contains the “first steps” in astronomical knowledge.
It is divided into two major parts: core and supplemental material — four detailed lesson plans (curriculum and additional explanation); and theories of the education and training for adopters of kindergarten didactics (syllabus, education methodology, techniques, strategies, tools). The Main material is presented in the core material, as well as five themes: I. Solar System, II. Orientation, III. Ecology, IV. Space travel and V. Observatory.
Throughout these lessons, we teach using playful methods, with the help of many popular songs, poems, and plays created by the authors. The authors seek comprehension through combining traditional and modern tools.
The second part describes and complements the knowledge of kindergartens didactics, which is necessary for the everyday preoccupation of the kindergarten children. It explains the age specifics of small children, prepares the kindergarten educators to choose the proper didactics, curriculum, and educational tools.
The pedagogical optimism and cheerfulness increases the trust of the kids, but are there more amazing pedagogical jobs than what the authors experienced? Transforming our education was a very long process, but not impossible. Re-altering our own concept of the education was crucial. It was a long method, but not impossible. The book proves this. Success was demonstrated in practice; children were very active, enjoyed the lessons and gained useful knowledge. The authors’ merit is in the idea of teaching the orientation: Let’s think about how important it is for small children to understand directions and orientate themselves. If they get lost somehow, it shouldn’t be panic that comes over them, but the ability to find their way home. The authors offer some professional pedagogical, andragogical advice for kindergarten educators, showing how they imagined astronomy as part of the kindergarten education.
The book is a triple primer in the education area:
– in didactical astronomy: teaching to small children (3 to 8 years old);
– in kindergarten, preschool and primary didactic: detailed lesson plans with particular methodology;
– in pedagogy, andragogy: theories, methods, tools, and practices in one book for teaching astronomy.
This book is dedicated to kindergarten, preschool and primary teachers, presenter of science programmers, who would consider introducing astronomy to kids, and parents who also find this knowledge useful for their children.
These findings are described in the article entitled First steps in Astronomy, recently published in the Romanian Astronomical Journal. This work was conducted by Iharka Szücs-Csillik from the Astronomical Institute of Romanian Academy, Istvan Szücs, Liviu Mircea, and Maria Lugosi.