Stargazing not only sparks curiosity among kids, but it can also help to foster a love of learning, nature, and science.
Just weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone seemed to be talking about nature ‘reclaiming itself’. Traffic-free roads and near-deserted city centers led to reports of dramatically reduced pollution levels and wild animals roaming the streets of towns and cities (although some of these reports seem to have been faked).
And while nature reclaimed itself, we certainly reconnected with it. Initially, we were forced into nature, a brief respite from the confines of our four walls. Then we swiftly fell in love again, the local parks, the fields, the rivers, the beaches, the forest, the hills, the mountains. And, the stars.
A week after the UK entered its full, national lockdown, some media outlets were reporting that ‘Venus was visible thanks to reduced light pollution’. Any seasoned stargazer or astronomer would’ve been able to tell you that Venus is one of the brightest objects in the night sky, so it’s not overly difficult to spot. While those reports may not have necessarily been totally accurate, it helped to spark an idea in the minds of people who were already desperate for new ways to occupy their minds and time.
A new lockdown craze took off with humble beginnings. The relative masses were happy enough to sit in their gardens one evening, hoping to catch a glimpse of Venus. Five minutes, ten minutes, 30 minutes, an hour. It didn’t matter how long you spent out there. It was just ‘something different’. But, for many, it was the first step to a new found passion and love of the night sky.
For some, that’s all the hobby was. Simple. Withdrawn from technology. All they needed was a set of eyes, a clear night, and a billion stars hovering around thousands of lightyears away. As is always the way with hobbies and interests, some wanted to enhance their experience. Sleeping bags, camping chairs, lamps, and tents – they all fed the enthusiasm for staying up late into the night, sometimes right through the night. It was all for the wonder of the vastness of what has sat above them their entire lives.
Stargazing holds a simplicity that matches their new life.
Tilting to telescopes
What may have started as an evening filler early into the pandemic when excitement and enthusiasm for ‘using the extra time to try new things’ was arguably at its highest, soon became a true love for many. It wasn’t long before retailers were reporting a jump in telescope sales with parents searching for the best telescopes for kids. And organisations like the British Astronomical Association experienced a welcome boost to its web and YouTube stats as budding stargazers went in search of hints, tips and tricks on how to make the most of their new pieces of kit.
The family bond
Stargazing has proved particularly popular with families. It’s incredibly accessible and simple enough for younger children to enjoy the basics, while offering enough complexity as they get older and more intelligent.
The night sky, and space by extension, is the ultimate adventure. Stargazing not only sparks curiosity among younger ones, but can help to foster a love of learning, nature and science. It can also help you to raise children who are thoughtful, introspective and mindful of the world and universe around them. Sharing an activity that prompts those sorts of reactions is incredibly bonding between any two people, especially a parent and their children.
Jonathan Davies is a dad to three-year-old Raife and (nearly) one-year old Eden, and a writer for DaddiLife – the parenting website for modern-day dads and a community of fathers across the UK and US. Jon is incredibly passionate about the outdoors and its benefits for children, and is always looking for new outdoor activities to try out with Raife and Eden.
Cover picture by Martin Zorn