Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

Celebrating Jupiter

junoThe Juno spacecraft continues to send back amazing photographs of Jupiter on its’ regular flybys. Pictured above is one of the stunning images of Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. Take a look at more of the spectacular images here. (Warning! It’s easy to get lost in time browsing these.)

Does anyone remember the initial excitement around Juno? The Juno spacecraft arrived near Jupiter on July 4, 2016. This was a big deal (in pre-solar eclipse times).

As the library was closed on July 4th, we celebrated on July 5 with a “Jump to Jupiter” program based on Star_Net libraries‘ program of the same name, Jump to Jupiter, available at their STEM Activity Clearinghouse. I saw this program demonstrated at ALA Midwinter, during a Deep Dive session offered by Star_Net Libraries: Creating Out-Of-This World Children’s Science Programming with Free NASA Resources, and was excited to try it in the library. starnet-logo-206x80

The big idea for this program was that “Space is big.” Of course it is — you know that! – but creating a scale model of the solar system really helps to convey this idea in concrete, physical terms. It definitely helped me to more fully appreciate the distances between and sizes of planets.

Maker:S,Date:2017-10-24,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-veThe model is to scale — both in terms of the planets relative size and their relationship to one another. To begin with, the sun is a grapefruit. This means Mercury is a barely visible speck, and the earth is a sea salt crystal. The inner planets were attached to a card so that a volunteer could hold them.

After an introduction in the meeting rooms, children began their planetary journey at the sun, just outside the door. The inner planets were able to be placed in the main hallway, within the sightline of the sun. That way you could explain to the children that they could see how big the sun would look if they were actually standing on the surface of that planet.


After Mars, the course got a bit more irregular, heading up the staircase to the adult section to find Jupiter (a wooden pony bead), then winding back down the stairs, across the atrium, past the media and teen sections and all the way to the back of the youth department and then reversing course to reach Saturn.


From there, the journey reversed back  through the hallway to Uranus. Neptune and Pluto were outside the library — down the sidewalk and then several blocks toward Uptown Westerville. A sign (and a volunteer during the busiest time) asked children not to leave the library without a grownup!

Teen volunteers manned each planetary station, equipped with fun facts about their planet and a sticker for each participant’s bookmark.

Completed bookmarks were turned in and children could choose a Juno Mission Patch button at the end of their journey.




Read about how another library adapted this program for their library:

Planet Hoppers (

and you can too!

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Talking STEAM

Here is the presentation for the Franklin County Head Start STEAM Conference, presented March 20, 2017:


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More with Light & Dark

As the days are getting shorter, or more accurately, the hours of light are getting shorter and it is dark for longer periods of time, it seemed a good time to explore light and dark. I’ve explored similar topics before, but this was a different combination of books and activities.

We began with Lemony Snicket’s The Dark. It’s October, and I appreciate that this book can empower children to overcome their fear of the dark. We talked about who sleeps with a nightlight, and how the character uses a flashlight.oscar_and_the_moth

Then I shared Oscar and the Moth by Geoff Waring, one of a series of fantastic preschool science books featuring Oscar the Cat. It talks about animals that come out at night (like the moth) as well as animals that make their own light (like the anglerfish). And it talks about making shadows, which was one of our activities. I set up the projector on a blank wall, and the kids and parents made shadows. Such a simple activity — and it was so popular!


We also painted with light, using iPads and flashlights. See this post about how to paint with light.We used the LongExpo Free app (which works on iPad as well as iPhone), though there is probably a newer app as well (recommendations welcome!)

Another station was a light table — fun to mix colors and build in the dark!


We also put on our safety glasses and explored with squishy circuits. We had done a dance (Hap Palmer’s Switch on the Music) and explored electricity with an electricity stick. The main idea was that circuit sounds like circle — and the electricity has to go in a circle in order to work. We can see that when the lights light up! See this post on squishy circuits.


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