Soaring Through the Universe:  Astronomy Through Children's Literature.  What a journey!  For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in flying, space travel, and the Greek myths.  For the past ten years, as I  have rearranged my style of teaching to incorporate whole language and literature-based methods, I had often thought about merging the ancient myths and the stars.  It seemed as natural, and here and there I would  dabble with it but always informally.

Through the years, I have purchased classroom books dealing with all areas of space science, and  during the summer of 1994 I took a space science graduate course sponsored by the University of Alabama.  The course required writing a unit outline in an area of space science that integrated at least three other  subject areas.  Earlier that same summer, I had attended classes on Integrated Thematic Instruction, which covered the application of Howard Gardner's ideas on multiple intelligences.  The implementation of  multiple intelligence strategies became a focal point, and I sensed that now was finally the time to formalize my ideas using mythology, its literature, and astronomy.  Thus, Soaring Through the Universe was born.

The central idea of this book is the blending of literature and science.  Each chapter contains a rather extensive bibliography, focusing on myths and folktales, and offers suggestions for combining  these stories with writing, math, science, art, music, and the multiple intelligences.  Chapters 1 through 5 are structured so that each can be used on its own or in combination with the others, and each includes  introductory literature and response activities followed by a sequential process that leads students through the acquisition of basic scientific understanding within each topic.  Chapter 6 contains general  recommendations for responding to literature for which most literary works can be accommodated.  Following this introduction, there is a list of the multiple intelligences, a lesson plan suggestion, and a short  bibliography.

The responses to literature and other suggestions throughout this book reflect what I have been able to accomplish in my classroom, as well as my individual style of teaching.  Use them as guides  and modify them to suite your style, comfort level, grade level, and class design.

It has taken me approximately eleven years to gather all the books, materials, lessons, and so forth, to put this program together, so  don't feel overwhelmed or overanxious.  Start slowly, try a couple of different ideas and lessons, attend a NASA seminar or other aerospace education workshop, and get your feet wet.  Relax and have fun.   When you see how much the students enjoy the literature and the accompanying activities, you'll be willing to make further attempts.

The concept of Soaring Through the Universe started as a few simple star stories and a couple of response-to-literature activities to go with the tales.  As you can see, it has become more than that.  My active interest in the Young Astronaut program and NASA's variety of educational opportunities has enabled me to share in a number of outstanding adventures, acquire knowledge, and collect a comprehensive array of materials.  Therefore, this book is offered as an introduction to the wide-ranging topic of space science and attempts to share the basics of that topic with you.  My wish is that you will find many ways to apply and adapt these suggestions to your style of teaching and be able to discover and share the wonder and excitement of aerospace science with your students.

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Contact the Author -  Joanne Letwinch

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