It's in the stars - FamilyEducation

It's in the stars

July 31,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

T. is a girl who loves her bedtime. She's never been a night owl (unless you count those dreadful colic days, or the months post-op when she decided it was neat to be awake from 3-6 a.m.). Even if she has the chance to stay up to do something fun, she starts to wilt after 7:30 and asks for bed, and jammies, and sleep. As a result, she's had little interest in the world at night. I'm not sure she's ever really seen a starry night sky--at least not to gaze at in wide-eyed wonder. A few years ago L. and I made a star projector. We took an old metal can, punched holes in it with a nail, inserted a flashlight, and oohed and aahed over the shapes the light made on the walls and ceilings. I think T. was about a year old at the time, and that night she was fast asleep in her crib in the next room while L. and I lay cozily among pillows on the floor in his room, and made our own nocturnal wonderland. T. lately has expressed some interest in stars, and the universe, and what it's all about. Yesterday afternoon, when we hit a tiresome spot in the afternoon and the rain and thunder washed out some pool time and made everything gloomy and dark and frustrating, we made our own star projector. We took an empty pancake mix canister (you can also use an oatmeal container, a tin can, or a coffee can). What You'll Need Next, we took a fairly thick nail and punched holes in the sides and metal top (or bottom) of the can. You can get fancy and try to make patterns, or just do as I did and make random holes. Making Stars Then rush upstairs with a flashlight, find a dark room, or wait until bedtime if you have a patient child (wait--is there such a thing?). Have them shine the flashlight into the can so that little pinpricks of light project onto the walls and/or ceiling. Projection I don't know how we did it, but we even got a crescent moon and star shape! Crescent moon (Hey! It's the Turkish flag!) T. loved this. All in all it took less than 10 minutes to make the projector, and we spent almost 30 minutes playing with the projector--trying different rooms, techniques, and surfaces. At bedtime we lay in the dark, as I had done years ago with L., and watched the stars--our own bit of the night sky, captured for T. Starry NightHappy star gazing....and happy weekend!