Tuesday, April 9, 2013

4th Grade Secular Astronomy Unit

Big Bang Theory notebook page w/foldable
Even though I'm close to wrapping up my third year as a homeschooling mom, I still haven't found a science curriculum program I'm happy with. Being a secular homeschooler rules out soooo many curriculums due to the religious content, so I've been creating most of our science as unit studies. As I've written more and more unit studies, I've become a bit faster at it, but I won't lie; I still long for a quality all-in-one secular science curriculum.

With my youngest son in 4th grade, we agreed to do a six week astronomy study. He doesn't enjoy earth science very much, plus he's terrified of the idea of asteroids hitting the earth, alien invasions, black holes, or anything that might threaten life on our planet. Needless to say, I skipped most of those topics and made sure the "life on other planets" day was very light and non-scary. (Not that I succeeded. Even though I thought the alien section was benign, he did NOT.)

Since this isn't a special interest of his, I kept the unit to covering just the basics. (I even committed the cardinal sin of not requiring one of those solar system displays!)  I used four different books as spines, with two being the main ones: Usborne Book of Astronomy & Space, and Scholastic Discover More: Planets. I borrowed the other two minor astronomy books from the library. (Not that the DK Space book is minor...it's very thorough! We just didn't use enough of it to justify owning it.) Below is a list of topics we covered during our study:

Layers of Earth's atmosphere foldable

The Universe
Big Bang Theory
Galaxies & the Milky Way
History of skywatching
The Sun
Inner Planets
The Earth (seasons, layers of atmosphere)
The Moon (eclipses & tides)
Outer Planets
Comets & meteoroids
Dwarf Planets
Animals in Space
Life on other planets
Hubble telescope & space stations

I've begun utilizing text-mapping with the goal of training my kids to pull out important information from non-fiction text. Our highlighters are color-coded with orange being a new vocabulary word, blue the main idea, yellow supporting details. Or maybe it was yellow the main idea and blue supporting details? Well, you get the picture.

text-mapping highlighting on the right page

Little by little, I'm adding notebooking into our history and science studies. The text-mapping ties in nicely with the notebooking technique since it can highlight the information to be summarized on the notebooking page. We did this for our historical astronomer notebooking page...

You can download a pdf of my six-week lesson plans for this unit. It contains links to the different books I used, foldables (when applicable), projects I found on Pinterest, and relevant Study Jam videos


  1. thanks for share..

  2. I found a website called 'Connecting the thoughts', which offers religiously neutral courses. Neutral meaning it is not discussed, one way or the other. It's great for those who want a hands on curriculum as there are a lot ideas for things to do.