Why Using a Telescope is Good for Kids STEM Development

Telescope is Good for Kids STEM Development


There are endless ways to boost your kid’s involvement in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. But did you know one of the more unique ways is using a telescope?

Depending on the type of telescope you purchase, you can use it to reinforce STEM concepts like observing nature or determining trajectories. And, of course, teaching your child about the wonders of the solar system.

Studying the Night Sky

When most people think of telescopes, they picture using them to look at the night sky. This is not only an engaging pastime but can also be used as a teachable moment.

Encourage your child’s curiosity by asking probing questions about what they see.

  • What kind of rock do they think the moon is made of (igneous rocks)?
  • How fast is it moving across the sky?
  • Why can we see the moon at all, if it doesn’t generate light of its own?
  • How did the craters form?
  • Why don’t we see many craters like that on Earth?

In addition to the moon, telescopes provide an ideal way to discuss the stars. Challenge your child to find specific constellations and discuss their history. Ask them if they know what a star is made of, how it forms, and how it dies. Bonus points if they know the Sun is actually a star!

See if your child can spot any planets, and if they can, the differences between them. Have them notice if the planets are different colors or sizes. What planets can’t they see at the moment, and why?

If you want to get technical, you can use the night sky to talk about the Earth’s rotation, how the moon affects gravity and the tides. Or, to keep it lighter, you could always engage in the age-old debate about whether or not Pluto should still be a planet!

Bonus points if you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera and a good telescope for astrophotography, so you can take high-quality photos of the celestial objects you see.

Studying the Daylight Hours

Telescope is Good for Kids STEM Development

Telescopes aren’t only for looking at the stars. There are some fantastic land-viewing telescopes you can use during the day to study the world around you.

Take your child and your telescope and head into nature. Find local birdlife and ask your child about them.

  • Why do they think certain birds live in certain areas?
  • What role do these birds play in the ecosystem?
  • Why does this bird have that color plumage?

Depending on how deep you go into nature, you have the potential to see other wild animals too. (Always be safe and never try to feed the wildlife!) See if you can spot some deer, a raccoon, or other wild creatures native to your area.

Encourage your child to think about the world around them. This is a golden opportunity to discuss the ecosystem in both macro and microform, rock sculptures, and how they form, even fractals (repeating patterns where the small part mirrors the larger whole).

Remind your child they don’t have to know all the answers to the questions you ask. The point is to boost their curiosity, critical thinking skills, and knowledge of the world around them.

The Telescope Itself

Beyond observing the sky and nature, the telescope itself presents an opportunity to reinforce kids’ STEM development. If your child is old enough, explain to them the physics behind the telescope and how it works to magnify the images so well.

Telescopes work by using lenses or mirrors to collect the dim light of night (or bright light of day) and focus that light. The light gets shaped by the lenses or mirrors (called optics) similar to how eyeglasses help focus your eyesight.

In lensed telescopes, the large end of the telescope holds the lens that gathers the light. It then gets shaped by the interior optics on its way to the smaller lens you place your eye against. This smaller lens magnifies the image.

In mirrored telescopes, a similar process is used, except the glass lenses are replaced with curved mirrors. Many refractor and Cassegrain telescopes give images that are “upside-down”, which gives another opportunity to get your child thinking about what is happening to the light within the telescope!

Final Thoughts

Telescopes open the door to a wide range of learning opportunities. Whether you study the sky above or the world around you, using a telescope provides a level of detail you otherwise miss using just your naked eye. They also provide many other opportunities to encourage your child’s curiosity and get them thinking about how things work.




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