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Make a Place for These Books About Space!

Share What is living in space like? How did the universe begin? Are there other worlds like ours? Children often have seemingly endless questions about space. This week, Education World looks at four books that answer students' questions and provide additional fascinating facts, stories, and activities to help make the study of space fun, educational, and exciting.

Each of the following four books takes a different look at the study of space. Whether you want a straightforward, detailed overview of the world of astronomy; a look at life in outer space; or a wealth of activities, projects, experiments, and crafts, one of these books is sure to fit the bill.


Book Cover Image Intended for children aged four through eight, The Starry Sky (Copper Beech Books), written by noted astronomer Patrick Moore and illustrated by Paul Doherty, contains enough detailed information to satisfy older readers as well. The Starry Sky was originally published in 1994; this edition has been revised to conform with recent discoveries. The book follows a natural progression from familiar concepts (our sun, our planet, and so on) to the more abstract ideas of the life cycle of stars and the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

The breathtaking color illustrations and some of the more basic facts about space will probably satisfy younger students; older students will enjoy learning interesting facts explained in simple, easy-to-grasp ways. For example, Moore simply but vividly describes the shape of our galaxy as "two fried eggs put together back-to-back." He explains complex phenomena through examples and analogies drawn from everyday life. The friction that causes meteors to burn when they enter the uppermost part of Earth's atmosphere is compared to the friction created when pumping up a bicycle tire with a hand pump, which causes the pump to become hot to the touch.

Paul Doherty's illustrations offer visual reinforcement of the ideas described in the text. When the book describes how Earth looks from the moon and how it would appear to wax and wane as the moon does when viewed from Earth, the illustration includes three views of Earth: one as a crescent, one as half a sphere, and one full.

Patrick Moore is a respected astronomer and hosts the long-running BBC television series The Sky at Night. To find out more about Moore, check The Sky At Night: Patrick Moore.


Do your students know they might be taller in space --
by up to 2 inches --
because the lack of gravity allows the backbone to straighten and expand? Do they know that light travels 2 million times faster than a bullet fired from a gun? Dozens of such facts appear throughout Space (Franklin Watts), written by Fiona Macdonald.

Easy to read and heavily illustrated, this book is sure to get -- and keep -- the attention of most elementary school students.

Book Cover Image Starting with a very simple, brief explanation of the universe and how it might have begun, Macdonald goes on to examine Earth's place in space, our sun and solar system, our moon, and the stars. She also touches on such diverse but related topics as naming constellations, the contributions of Galileo Galilei to the field of astronomy, and the possibility of future settlements in space.

Each page contains simple text grouped in one or two paragraphs. Headings in large type grab readers' attention. There are several color illustrations and photographs from various sources sprinkled liberally throughout, with captions that provide further insight. "Did You Know ..." sections contain very specific, interesting facts that enhance information already presented in the text.

Space would be an excellent supplement to classroom astronomy materials. "Try This!" sections offer a variety of ideas for classroom use, including simple demonstrations and experiments on gravity, rockets, constellations, and other space concepts as well as word puzzles, craft projects, and recipes. Other unique features include poems, songs, and even an ancient Egyptian creation myth.


Book Cover Image What would living in a space station be like? What happens to muscles in the absence of gravity? How do people plan and prepare meals for space flights? Space Station Science: Life in Free Fall (Scholastic, Inc.), by Marianne J. Dyson, provides a fascinating look at life on a space station. With information gathered from astronauts, scientists, and her own experiences as a former NASA employee, Dyson takes readers through an often fascinating look at life in space.

Beginning with the training of the crew, Dyson covers such topics as how space stations get air, water, and power; the dangers of meteor impacts; the types of work that people do on space stations; and the workings of a space station bathroom. The style of the book is easy-going and anecdotal, and the information presented is solid.

Scattered throughout the book, simple experiments and demonstrations illustrate various topics covered in the text. For example, in the section "Living in Space," Dyson discusses the effects of space station life on the human body. In one activity, youngsters measure their height throughout the day. They may actually be slightly taller in the morning because gravity has not compressed their spines during the night. Students might build a model space station from inexpensive, easily obtainable items.

Illustrations include simple cartoons to demonstrate the experiments and color photographs. Additional features include a list of Web sites for further research, a glossary, and an index.

Marianne J. Dyson is a former NASA flight controller. After leaving NASA, she continued to pursue her interest in space through writing. While researching Space Station Science: Life in Free Fall, she studied technical reports, interviewed hundreds of people involved in the space program, and participated in space station training. Read more about Dyson at her Web site Welcome to Marianne Dyson's Home Page!


Book Cover Image Exploring Space (Kids Can Press), written by Cynthia Pratt Nicolson and illustrated by Bill Slavin, is a new entry in the series Starting with Space, geared for elementary and middle school children. Divided into four sections, the book follows a logical progression from people's first interest in space through the history of space exploration.

More than half-dozen activities include having children "create" unique constellations by viewing the stars at night and using their imaginations to visualize them in different shapes. In another activity, the reader learns to decipher a message in binary code to understand how data is transmitted to Earth from a space probe. All the activities are easy to do and involve simple household materials.

In addition to space facts, readers are treated to stories and legends, explanations about the workings of telescopes, and sections detailing the differences between space stations, space probes, and space shuttles. Full-color illustrations and photographs enhance the text. Exploring Space is part of a larger series that includes such titles as The Moon, The Planets, and Comets, Asteroids, and Meteorites, but students can read and enjoy it on its own.

The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate a book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly:

  • The Starry Sky, written by Patrick Moore and illustrated by Paul Doherty, is published by Copper Beech Books, an imprint of The Millbrook Press, 2 Old New Milford Road, Brookfield, CT 06804.
  • Space, written by Fiona MacDonald, is published by Franklin Watts, a division of Grolier Publishing, Box 1795, Danbury, CT 06816.
  • Space Station Science: Life in Free Fall, written by Marianne J. Dyson and illustrated by Dave Klug, is published by Scholastic, Inc. For additional information, call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.
  • Exploring Space, written by Cynthia Pratt Nicolson and illustrated by Bill Slavin, is published by Kids Can Press, Ltd., 85 River Rock Drive, Suite 202, Buffalo, NY 14207.
  • Lauren P. Gattilia
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2000 Education World

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