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Project ASTRO: Grade Range

Project ASTRO focuses on grades 4-9 because research shows that children in this grade range tend to begin to lose much of their curiosity about the natural world and their interest in science. There is evidence that this lack of interest is often linked to science instruction that emphasizes use of traditional textbooks and the learning of science as vocabulary. Project ASTRO aims to bring children back to science by appealing to humans' age-old fascination with the sky. Astronomy is seen as a particularly efficient "hook" to reinstate, maintain, and enhance students' interest in science.

However, teaching astronomy to children, especially at the lower end of this age range, presents special challenges. Because the phenomena to be understood are intangible and involve notions of space and time that are well beyond direct human experience, there is considerable debate among educators about the age at which teaching about these phenomena becomes appropriate.

Project ASTRO maintains, on the basis of experience, that certain activities can help make astronomical concepts more concrete, even for 9 and 10 year olds, and that middle-school students not only can grasp more abstract concepts but are intrigued and fascinated by the sky. The project's resource notebook, The Universe at Your Fingertips, contains activities developed around the country that help make learning astronomy more concrete and inquiry-based.

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