What you’ll need:
• 2 empty paper towel tubes
• Masking tape
• 2 convex lenses, for instance from old reading glasses
• Markers, crayons, stickers, and other crafty materials
Decorate the paper towel tubes with the craft supplies. (These pictures show just the outer tube decorated, but you can decorate however you like!)
Cut one of the paper towel tubes lengthwise (all the way up the side). Tuck one edge of the cut side slightly under the other and hold it in place with one hand.
Insert the cut tube into the other paper towel tube. It should fit snugly inside the outer tube but still be able to slide in and out.
Slide the inner tube out from the outer tube by about one inch. Tape one lens to the edge of the inner tube. (It’s OK if your lenses are bigger than the tubes—just try taping around the rim of the lenses so you don’t cover too much.) The outward curve of the lens should be facing the inside of the tube.
On the opposite end of the telescope, tape the second lens to the edge of the outer tube, with the outward curve of the lens pointing outside of the tube.
Explain to your child that telescopes work by making objects that are far away appear closer. Have them practice by placing their eye gently against the lens of the inner tube, aiming at something far away, then sliding the inner tube in and out until the image becomes clear. (You might want to remind them to never look directly at the sun.)
Use these observational prompts and activities to help children learn about biodiversity.
• Follow a bird in the sky for five minutes. Note where it goes, how high or low it is, and where it stops. Then draw a map of its journey. (Kids can observe flying insects, too!)
• What different shapes of clouds do you see? Find one that looks like a mammal, another that looks like a bird, and another that looks like a dinosaur.
• What differences do you see in a cloud if you look at it through the telescope, then again with just your eyes?
• Play a game of I Spy, taking turns giving clues about faraway targets.
Kids can also explore the night sky with the telescope:
• Look at the moon and draw its shape. How is it different the next night? The next week?
• How many stars can you count in one minute? How far away do you think they are?
• Find a constellation like the Big Dipper. What differences do you see when you look at it through the telescope, and then with just your eyes?
Now that kids understand how much is really going on in the sky, inspire them to protect it. Here are some ideas:
• Using electricity burns fossil fuels, which adds to pollution. Schedule a Family No-Screen Night once a week. Instead of using devices like televisions, computers, or tablets, play a board game, read books, or spend time on your favorite hobby.
• Driving less helps reduce CO2 emissions, and therefore air pollution. Pick a place that you would usually drive your kid to—like the pool, the soccer field, or a friend’s house—then work together to map out as many different bike routes as you can find to get there (even if it’s just riding down a different street for a block!). Then each time you head for the place, take a different route and talk about the different things you see along the way.
• Too much light at night—also called light pollution—washes out the natural starlight that many animals use to find their way in the dark, which can affect the migration patterns those animals need to survive. Parents can invest in LED lightbulbs, dimmers, and motion sensors to minimize light output. To empower children, put them in charge of setting timers for outdoor lights as the seasons change and monitoring the dimness of rooms people are in. Challenge them to make rooms a little dimmer each night!