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The reward of the young scientist is the emotional thrill of being the first person in the history of the world to see something or to understand something. Nothing can compare with that experience... The reward of the old scientist is the sense of having seen a vague sketch grow into a masterly landscape. — Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, astronomer, accepting the Henry Norris Russell Prize from the American Astronomical Society

IN TODAY'S SESSION... the children learned about the fifth Unitarian Universalist Source, in child-friendly words "the use of reason and the discoveries of science." We heard a story about Cecilia Payne, a Unitarian Universalist and the first professional astronomer. We conducted simple experiments to observe gravity and to investigate why sunsets are orange. Children learned that scientific investigation of falling objects or sunsets does not reduce their beauty or mystery, yet helps us understand our world.

EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about... your own love of learning. We continue to learn new things all the time. Cecilia Payne faced challenges as a woman interested in a scientific field (astronomy) which did not yet exist, and yet she persevered. Discuss with your family a time you made a commitment to lifelong learning. Talk about something new you learned—in school, or not—and what that was like. How did you feel about school? What did you most enjoy doing in school? Why? Share with your child why you believe it's important that we learn and discover.

EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Learn about and track the Hubble telescope on a website that includes downloadable photographs. Another online resource is Astronomy magazine; take note of the special editions.

Books your family might enjoy include:

  • A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky: The Story of the Stars, Planets, and Constellations — and How You Can Find Them in the Sky by Michael Driscoll (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2004)
  • Astronomy by Kristen Lippincott (DK Eyewitness Books, 2008)
  • The Stars: A New Way To See Them by H. A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008)
  • Maybe Yes, Maybe No by Dan Barker (Prometheus Books, 1993). In this child's introduction to healthy skepticism and critical thinking, the ten-year-old heroine, Andrea, is "always asking questions," writes Barker, because she thinks you should prove the truth.
  • Humanism, What's That? by Helen Bennett (Prometheus Books, 2005). "This small volume holds out the hope and openness of Humanism in a form that can help young people confront Fundamentalist approaches to religion with confidence," writes Rev. William Sinkford, former President of the UUA.

Family Discovery. The science experiment that shows why the sky is blue, but the sunset is red would be easy to replicate at home. Download Session 9, Activity 3, Blue Sky, Red Sunset from the Tapestry of Faith website.

A Family Ritual. Every week, take time to observe the night sky. Note the position of the Big Dipper and locate the North Star. Keep a log. The cold winter months are the best time of year to view these constellations.

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