It starts with a question, how can we share Astronomy with children? It’s a question we ask ourselves whenever we get an invitation to conduct programs for children. What should we do to engage children in Astronomy? How can we change the current methods of teaching Astronomy for Children?

A usual 1-2hour program we do with children always starts with simple introduction to Astronomy. This is followed by a solar observing session using solar filters. BUT, is this enough? In  order to get children engage more, we need to have something that they are familiar of, so we can build their sense and awareness on Astronomy.

What do children love doing everyday? PLAYING!

By taking this idea further, we combined Astronomy with a traditional game. When doing so, we had to think of important aspects such as; the game should be widely known, it should be suitable for any age – children, parents both and it should be easy to play. The outcome was Astronomy version of Snake & Ladder game.

The first version was regular size, but to make it much more fun, taking a step further, we created a life-size version of the game where children are able to play it as pawns themselves. Another good outcome of the game was that children and parents equally enjoyed the Astronomy version of Snake & Ladder while learning Astronomy. It was a unique way of converting a regular game into an educational one.

Another way to catch public attention on Astronomy is through folklore stories. Not just for children, but also for adults, using folklore stories relating to Astronomy is a good way to build curiosity and enthusiasm towards Astronomy.

Locally, here in Indonesia, we started collecting folklore related to astronomy; “Starlore” (folklore about celestial object and its interpretation according to local people). It was a part of “Stars of Asia” project by IYA2009 Japan node. Since then, we have found many stories and used them in storytelling sessions with children as another method to get them interested in Astronomy.

Why storytelling? Story telling culture is the legacy from our ancestors (at least in Indonesia), and this culture makes people easy to remember on something and is the gate to build curiosity for children. Through storytelling we could teach the audience on the subject of the story as well to teach the moral of the story. During our storytelling sessions, we noticed that children and adults both equally pay attention. This is important as the new generations tends to forget the cultural value.

It is not easy to collect folklore stories though. Because for many centuries, the folklores has been passed on from a generation to another via word-of-mouth. Therefore we found it as utterly important to document the stories before they get lost with the history. Also, folklore is a good example to show the younger and new generations that their ancestors already had a remarkable interest in Astronomy and celestial objects were a part of their daily activities.

Through the interpretation of the celestial folklore and by storytelling to the children we can free their imagination about the sky and build their curiosity for celestial events.


Blogger :
Avivah Yamani, is an astronomer, blogger, writer and a communicator who works in langitselatan (Indonesia astronomy online media) and astronomy magazine in Indonesia. She is involved extensively with astronomy communication with the public, enjoying the challenge of conveying complex ideas in an easy-to-understand manner.


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