Friday, May 20, 2016

Memoria Press ~ Book of Astronomy Set (Review)

Having grown up in Montana, with a father who is a life-long-learner, I have an affinity for the night sky. Montana skies offer a much clearer view of stars, planets and the Milky Way at large, thanks to less light pollution than my current locale. I grew up knowing how to identify the Big Dipper and Orion's Belt, but did not become familiar with many of the other constellations until I was no longer living in the pristine environs of Montana.

I've tried to instill some sense of identifying certain constellations as "signs and seasons," and have been somewhat successful. With the opportunity to review Memoria Press's Book of Astronomy Set, I am learning right along with my Youngest, who is the main student on this review.

The Book of Astronomy Set includes a consumable Student Book and a Teacher Guide.

The course includes 4 Units:
Unit 1 covers some of the basics of Astronomy, introducing the concept/history of the constellations, the science of Earth's movement and how that relates to the night sky, the names of the 15 brightest visible stars and an explanation of Star Magnitude. It then moves into the constellations themselves, discussing those seen in the Summer-Fall sky, along with the summer zodiac constellations. *Note: discussion of the "zodiac" may make you think of astrology, but this study has nothing to do with that. As defined in the book, "The zodiac constellations are those constellations through which the sun, moon and planets appear to move."

Unit 2 covers the Winter constellations and zodiac, as well as a section on using the stars for navigation.

Unit 3 introduces the Spring constellations and zodiac.

Unit 4 covers the Solar System, Dwarf Planets, Moons and Comets.

Throughout the book, when a constellation is introduced, a regular format is followed:

  • The history of the name (which may or may not include suggestions for reading some of the Greek Myths~ I was less inclined to do incorporate full myth stories, and instead gave my own abbreviated versions of why the constellation may have been named for certain characters (like Hercules, for instance) and it's Latin and English form.
  • The names of the stars of 1st magnitude, and any other relevant information.
  • Instruction in completing a dot-to-dot (or star-to-star, if you will) of the constellation, with a couple of opportunities to do the work.
  • A chart that is filled out incrementally (as new constellations and stars are learned), of the English and Latin names for the constellations, and the stars of 1st magnitude. This was a little tricky, in that I didn't notice right off the bat that there was only one "white" row in the constellation chart to start with.. and that was the only information required to be filled in... not all 15 stars/constellations at once. Actually, it *is* possible that the 15 stars of 1st magnitude are supposed to be memorized and filled out first, but since I'm doing this with an 8 year old, we're taking is slow... One Constellation/Star combo at a time. What a relief, when I figured that out! :) 
  • There are other exercises that include filling in the blanks with information gleaned from the text, as well as from outside sources (ie D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths)
Example of Student page, with the 3 brightest stars from the 3 constellations covered thus far.
A glossary and pronunciation guide can be found at the back of the book, which is especially useful if you haven't recently brushed up on your Latin. ;)

When working on the names of the 15 Stars of 1st Magnitude, I had my youngest use some hand/arm motions to help him remember which one comes next, which was kind of fun. Every now and again the motion actually related to the name, and others it was just something different to help stir his memory.

The Teacher's Guide includes all of the pages of the Student Book with completed work, as well as Unit and Final Test masters and Answer Keys, and "overhead" masters. The only things I really wish were included would be a "Schedule" for instruction (I like to get a feel for what others do, and then do my own thing. :)), and possibly notes for things like the chart that had me confused. It really is a no-frills teacher guide, with very little hand-holding, most simply resembling an answer key, vs an actual guide.
Student page on left, Teacher page on right
I am looking forward to spending some time in Montana this summer, where the stars can be seen so much more clearly, and I have great hopes that my Youngest and I will be able to identify a few more constellations than before, thanks to Memoria Press' Book of Astronomy!

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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