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Viewing the above

When it is a clear night the sky at this time of the year is positively beautiful. I remember when my daughter and her children were staying with me. Their home was being renovated. One night when we came home from shopping I took the time to locate the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) and the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) to show my granddaughter. She was fascinated with the stars. From that time on whenever we came home at night, she quickly pointed out the Big and Little Dippers for all of us.

I love to look up in the sky and find the constellations that I am familiar with. When I was teaching, I did a team-teaching thing with another teacher. I went to his classroom to teach a unit on babysitting and he went to my room to teach a unit on the stars. It was followed up with a field trip to the Edinboro planetarium. My unit included safety of the children that you were in charge of as well as ways to entertain them. He taught about the constellations and where to find them. All in all, it was a good experience for all. Former students often recall that experience when we meet.

I could not help but laugh as the older students looked to me when they were trying to entertain their charge. Some brought extra things to entertain their child, others counted on what they could see to entertain. I matched the students carefully. Some of the sixth-graders asked me if they were like the student I matched them with when they were in second grade. The answer to that was yes, probably.

I do not pretend to know all of the constellations even though I sat through the presentation at the planetarium several times. I do know Orion’s belt. I recall that being the answer to a trivia question that earned us a piece of the puzzle once when we were playing the game.

Now, I look at the stars just because they make such a beautiful picture. I love to walk outside in the evening to view the stars. I remember when I was training my dog. I had to take him out. That is when I did my viewing. Sometimes it was snowing, the kind of snow that sparkled.

When the sky is clear it is usually very cold since the heat escapes. I never minded the cold since I dressed for it.

One summer my youngest grandson and I took several day trips to see things around here. We had a great time exploring. Each outing was accompanied by a meal out so that was fun for both of us.

One such trip was to the Martz Observatory. That is just over the hill from my place. If you have never been there, watch for one of their open houses and attend.

It is really educational. There have several telescopes. The night we visited my granddaughter asked if she could go with us. Her brother agreed that was alright. We drove up and listened to the people who were there to educate us. They told us if we came back in a couple hours, we would get a better view of the planets. We came back home for a snack, then went back up there to view them. It was magnificent.

If you intend to go up there, I would advise you to do a little research first. That way you will know what to look for. Take the grandchildren with you. They will love to look through those telescopes. The roof actually opens for a better view of the night sky.

Nature is truly a fabulous teacher. There is so much to explore. That is the part of science that I was most interested in. I loved to take the grandchildren out and about to learn in the wide-open classroom that is all around us. Sometimes we brought things home with us so that we could share the experience with their parents. Sometimes we just observed.

Recently I found a little book that one of the grandchildren and I made to take on our walks. We always had a pencil along to jot things down.

His little book was filled with the things we saw and the experiences we had. He loved to watch the bees at the Audubon. Much later his father had hives of bees for him to observe. He got to help extract the honey and sell it in their store. We took some of it with us to one of the sales where I featured my books. The honey sold right away and he was so pleased to be able to take some money home to his parents.

Do not think of winter as being a dead time. It is simply a time when things that grow are dormant. Show the children the buds that await a little heat to open and then bear fruit. If they have a stake in their food chain it is much more important to them. Enjoy the down time while you observe. Make learning fun!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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