Teaching children about space
With space exploration in full swing, and much talk about space colonization, I think that now is a really good time to teach children about space. We won't be going to Mark, but our children or grandchildren might.
It is very important to keep the interest in space at a high level, especially among kids. The kids are our future, and they are the ones who will or should really get into space exploration. Teaching them about space from a young age, (and teaching them a whole lot more about space than we were taught), is a must. Let's make sure that our young ones are curious enough about space to want to explore it.
I feel that space exploration should be a subject in any school. Not combined with other things, but a subject just about space. Its history, details numbers, what's out there and how far away it is, how many many moons it has, how hot it is, etc..
If we teach the children well, it will become a part of their lives, and knowledge is power. They need the power to explore space and colonize it. Even a summer space camp would be nice, where kids can learn while playing.
What do you think?
It doesn't take a ton to get kids interested in space. It's like dinosaurs and cars. If kids are allowed to play and explore on their own, and are given the resources they need to participate in self-guided learning, they could actually turn out to be a lot more interested in the universe around them than you'd think just by watching them sit in a classroom, listening to a teacher recite dry facts. One thing I usually recommend is buying them a decent beginners' telescope like the ones you can find at Orion Telescopes & Binoculars -- or, even if you don't think you can afford a new one, you might get lucky and find a cheap used one at a garage sale or thrift store. Then teach them how to watch stars and planets through it. When they actually see Mars and Jupiter through a telescope, they start realizing that those planets are not just something you read about in a science textbook. They're real places that they might actually go to someday.
Another nice thing is to take them to a planetarium. I remember going to a planetarium in Paris when I was young, and it was truly amazing. You got to sit in a hammock-like chair and they showed the sky as seen above Paris, then the sky as seen 50 km away from Paris, then the sky as seen 100 km away from Paris, etc... It really was amazing to see how much of the night sky is missed due to the lights of the city.
By the way, it is said that the Hayden Planetarium in New York City is considered the best planetarium in the word. I definitely want to go there some time.
Anyway, I think it's a great place to visit with kids who are old enough to appreciate and understand it, it will make them be more interested in space.
Another nice thing to do with kids is the International Space Station spotting, as long as people live in an area where the sky is clear, and not hazy because of pollution or too many lights around. The space station is really easy to spot with the bare eye and there is no need for a telescope.
One thing I think would be good is if more kids were exposed to the career opportunities in aerospace along with being exposed to how cool space is. A lot of kids get bored in science class because they don't see what the point is, which maybe could be blamed partly on a school system that emphasizes the memorization of dry facts without giving a lot of context or explaining how these facts could apply to their daily lives if they choose the right career. Kids go on, what, two or three field trips a year? That's not really enough to engage their interest in STEM, so teachers should supplement that by having them dissect a flower, having them design and program a robot, letting them play with stuff that relates to STEM. And teach them that there are really people who "play" with robots and telescopes and space stations for a living. Show them that the opportunities are there and they'll be more engaged.