Posts Tagged astronomy

STEM Tuesday — Astronomy/ Eclipse — Author Interview

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview, a repeating feature for the last Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

This month’s featured STEM author is Meg Thacher, author of Sky Gazing: a guide to the Moon, Sun, planets, stars, eclipses, constellations (Storey Publishing, 2020). Meg teaches astronomy at Smith College and is the academic director for Smith’s Summer Science & Engineering Program for high school girls. Plus, she writes for kids!

Sky Gazing is a fun and fascinating tour of our solar system, with many extra bonus points for its glow-in-the-dark cover! spread from SKY GAZING

Andi Diehn: The format of your book is slightly unusual – it’s big! Why did your publisher decide to go big with this one? What is it about the content that lends itself to taking up a lot of “space” on the page? (pun intended)
Meg Thacher: I think the size (11 by 11 inches), which is similar to many picture books, signals that there will be a lot of illustrations. This large size is not unusual for Storey Publishing’s kids’ books. They publish a lot of how-to books: Backpack Explorer, Cooking Class (Deanna Cook), Cardboard Box Engineering (Jonathan Adolph). All of them, including Sky Gazing, have pages large enough to accommodate diagrams and instructions. Sky Gazing is a book about observing the sky from wherever you are, day or night, with the naked eye. But it also has information on the What causes the Moon’s phases? How does the Sun move through the sky at different times of year? What are the shapes that people all over the world saw in the stars, and what are the stories they told about them? It’s hard to do that that well without illustrations.

Andi: I like how you weave in history, not just science – why is it important for readers to think about astronomy’s role in exploration and culture?

Meg: Astronomy is the oldest science. People started out telling stories about what was happening into the sky, which inspired them to observe these phenomena closely, which in turn helped them to discover the reasons behind them. So those first storytellers were also scientists. It was important to me that readers understand that everyone, everywhere on Earth looked at the sky. No matter who you are, your ancestors were astronomers. And you can be, too!

Andi: I LOVE the hands-on activities! Why include these in the book? spread from SKY GAZING

Meg: This is partly a Storey thing and partly a me thing. Reading about astronomy is fun, but doing activities makes the ideas and concepts more “sticky”. We can read about the path of the Sun through the sky, but if we put a stick in the ground and watch its shadow for a day, we’ll remember it better. We’ll understand the connections between the Sun and shadows, and even deepen that understanding by making a connection to how shadows help us tell time. I use activities in my teaching all the time.

Andi: Your book encompasses your topics from the microscopic examination to a macro view – such as the section on the sun, which includes a discussion of fusion. Did you ever think, when you were writing, whoa, this is way too much for a kid’s book?

Meg: Absolutely! And that’s why there are so many text features. The book is written for kids in grades 4 to 9, which encompasses a huge range of scientific knowledge. I was very careful to check in with the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) so that I knew what content was age appropriate. The main text should be comprehensible to a fourth grader, but I wanted to have something for the ninth graders, too. So there are sidebars for them that go into more depth. The fourth graders can skip those without losing the general explanation. Photos and diagrams and pictures illustrate concepts in the text, so that readers have a visual representation of the text. One of my favorite features is the graphic novel sequences. For example, there’s a detailed text description of how the Moon was formed on one page, and a series of panels on the facing page, complete with collisions and explosions. One is engaging, and one provides detail.

Andi: In your book, astronomy is super accessible – you have lots of suggestion for how readers can observe the skies above them, even without telescopes or other equipment. Why is that important to include?

spread from SKY GAZING

Meg: I wanted to make astronomy accessible to everyone. Astronomy can be a really expensive hobby if you buy a telescope. Or very frustrating if you buy a cheap one. The sky is up there for all of us to observe—you don’t have to go to a lab or hike through the jungle to get your data. There’s so much to see, no matter who you are or where you live, with your eyes alone. And if you want to go a little deeper, the absolute cheapest or oldest binoculars will help you do that.

Andi: You’re a college professor – when writing this book for younger students, what did you focus on that might be different from your work with older students?

Meg: Actually, I teach a lot of the same things to both audiences. The courses I teach to my college students are focused on observation, with telescopes and the naked eye. The two main things I do differently when writing for a younger audience are to make sure that the topics are developmentally appropriate and that the material is fun and relevant for kids.

Andi: Your tattoo book is so fun! How did that project come about?! Temporary tattoo book

Meg: My publisher again. Storey has a series called Tattoos That Teach. Topics include butterflies, sharks, dinosaurs, and woodland creatures. Astronomy was an obvious fit, so they hired me to come up with a list of astronomical objects and write the blurbs, and they hired Angela Rizza for the pictures. She’s an illustrator and a tattoo artist!


Andi: Is there anything I didn’t ask about your book that you’d like to mention?

Meg: Yes – how it looks! This is down to the illustrator, Hannah Bailey, and the book designer, Jessica Armstrong. When I turned in my manuscript, I included hundreds of diagrams and pictures. I would find them on the web or in books, or make a rough sketch, and these two turned it into a work of art. When I saw the “first pages”—the initial version of the text and illustration, laid out as it would be in the book—I was blown away. From photos and illustrations to page placement and color choices, this book is just gorgeous. It would be a very different book if I was the only involved in its creation.



Meg Thacher teaches astronomy and writes about science. She loves to teach kids and adults about the wonders of the universe. She’s written 30 articles for kids’ magazines: feature articles, interviews and scientist profiles, DIY science activities, and humor. Her first book, Sky Gazing, teaches kids how to observe the sky, night or day, from wherever they are. For more information, check out her website:



Andi Diehn has written 17 nonfiction books plus a picture book on mental health called MAMA’S DAYS from Reycraft Books. She works as aAndi Diehn children’s book editor and marketer at Nomad Press and visits schools and libraries around the country to talk about science, writing, poetry, mental wellness, and anything else kids want to know! Andi also works as a bookseller at her local indie in Vermont – The Norwich Bookstore – and lives in rural New Hampshire with her husband, three sons, and too many pets.

STEM Tuesday — Astronomy/ Eclipse — Writing Tips & Resources

Astronomy and Poetry

The moon, like a flower
In heaven’s high bower,
With silent delight,
Sits and smiles on the night.

Excerpt from “Night” by William Blake

April is National Poetry month so it’s a natural pairing for STE(A)M Tuesday’s astronomy activity blog. This particular post comes after the eclipse, but we can capitalize on the excitement generated by the event.

What you’ll find in this post is a history of National Poetry Month founded by the Academy of American Poets, a lesson from NASA “Write A Poem About Space.” Then a couple books about poetry and astronomy. Finally some activities that will take curiosity and learning to a new level and help reinforce communication skills.

National Poetry Month

Their website says it was launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, and celebrates poets’ integral role in our culture and that poetry matters. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and—of course—poets, marking poetry’s important place in our lives.

You don’t have to be a poet, or even interested in poetry, to use it as a device for writing with kids. Think of it more as allowing the young writers to communicate what they know with excitement and creative expression.

NASA begins their lesson WRITE A POEM ABOUT SPACE by talking about how many of their scientists were inspired by creative works about space.

Painters, musicians, writers and others have long been inspired by space. In ancient times, storytellers looked to the skies, found patterns, or constellations, and created tales about what they saw. Today, there are countless plays, books, songs and other creative works all about space. These works of art have helped inspire many NASA scientists and engineers to pursue their careers in space exploration. And now, their work is inspiring future poets, filmmakers and artists.

The NASA link is below at the end.



Where Did the Sun Go by Janet Cameron Hoult, is a good example of blending science, writing, myth, and poetry. The author has included eclipse stories from around the world and, based on her experiences, described them using poetic form. In addition, it includes illustrations and instructions for making a puppet show based on the stories. Beyond being fun to read, it is a useful resource for parents, teachers, and caregivers who want to have an in-depth, educational, and creative activity for young children. For older children, an enterprising teacher or parent could take it a step further and create a video or animation. Link below to making videos resources.

Where Did the Sun Go? book

Welcome to the Wonder House by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Georgia Heard, and illustrated by Deborah Freedman, includes poetry about astronomy and other science and creativity subjects, enhanced by particularly dreamy illustrations. Besides the relevant content, the colorful page design and imagery is an excellent example for letting creative imagination run free.

Welcome to the Wonder House book

Good writing will always be the Very Best way of communicating any kind of science so giving young people experience in written communication will be a boost to career readiness, no matter where their path leads. Teachers Pay Teachers has many lessons linking science and poetry. Two are listed below. Take a look yourself. They are set up by age group so you can find what you need.

Astronomy poetry resources.

The Academy of American Poets.


Shooting Video to Make Learning Fun. Julie Green (Author)

Where Did the Sun Go

Welcome to the Wonder House

Poetry Templates for Science Writing


Poetry Templates for Science Writing Book
Write a Science Poem book
Shooting Video to Make Learning Fun book

Margo Lemieux is a children’s book author and illustrator who enjoys many different modes of expression. She designed a number of notebook covers which are available on Amazon.

STEM Tuesday — Astronomy/ Eclipse — In the Classroom


What an incredible time to be a young scientist! Yesterday’s total solar eclipse was an exciting and memorable event for students (and adults) across the country. Interest in learning about about eclipses and astronomy in general is at a high. Thankfully, there are a plethora of incredible books on these subjects that students can read and enjoy. These books can be used as a springboard for classroom discussions and activities.


Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff: Fun Facts, Awesome Info, Cool Games, Silly Jokes, and More! by Julie Beer and Stephanie Warren Drimmer
This highly browsable book is sure to become an instant hit with your students. Chock full of interesting facts, such as the moon isn’t round; it’s egg-shaped, 1 Venus day is equal to 5,832 hours, and astronauts’ sense of taste weakens in space, students will be eager to share these fun tidbits with their friends. And the silly space jokes will have your students laughing out loud!
Classroom Activity: After reading about it, have your students take a virtual tour of the International Space Station. Or, watch this video with NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover as they offer viewers a tour of the ISS.
The Day the Universe Exploded My Head: Poems to Take You Into Space and Back Again by Allan Wolf, illustrated by Anna Raff
This collection of silly and informative poems will surely keep budding astronomers engaged. Personified planets abound, and many of the poems are meant to be read aloud in two voices. The illustrations are stunning and perfectly complement the text. The back matter includes a detailed glossary of selected space terms and notes on each of the poems.
Classroom Activity: Have students reflect on their experiences with the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse. If they saw it firsthand, they can draw upon their memories. If not, have them watch a video, such as Totality in Fredericksburg, to get an idea of what it was like. Then, have students create their own solar eclipse poems.
Casting Shadows: Solar and Lunar Eclipses with The Planetary Society by Bruce Betts, PhD
This traditional nonfiction text provides a general overview of solar and lunar eclipses. Readers will learn the differences between the two types of eclipses, when they occur, and how to watch them. This book is perfect for students who were fascinated by the total solar eclipse and are looking for more straightforward information. The accompanying photographs bring these incredible phenomena to life.
Classroom Activity: Today, we know that solar eclipses are caused by shadows. But in the past, people viewed them as omens of death and destruction. Have your students research the history of solar eclipses.
  • Where did the word “eclipse” come from?
  • When was the first solar eclipse on record?
  • Who are the following people and what is their relation to eclipses?
    • Chinese astronomer Liu Hsiang
    • Greek philosopher Plutarch
    • Byzantine historian Leo Diaconus
    • astronomer Johannes Kepler
    • Edmund Halley


Hopefully, these books and activities will inspire students to continue learning more about astronomy and eclipses long after the excitement surrounding the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse fades.



Jenna Grodziki

Jenna Grodzicki is the author of more than twenty-five fiction and nonfiction children’s books. Her books include Wild Style: Amazing Animal Adornments (Millbrook Press 2020) and I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food (Millbrook Press 2019), the winner of the 2020 Connecticut Book Award in the Young Readers Nonfiction Category. Jenna lives near the beach with her husband and two children. In addition to being a writer, she is also a library media specialist at a K-4 school. To learn more, visit her website at