Shopping for an Astronomy Classroom

Shop for planispheres, globes, and constellation guides through these affiliate links, and help support this website.


This is my advertisment page. I don't have much marketable curriculum material of my own to offer yet, but I do have a few things, and you can find links below. Following that brief list is a longer list of links to commercial items that you might find fun or helpful in your classroom or your home. This is not a list of recommended products — I have owned a few of these items myself, I can definitely recommend some of them, and I've tried to select well-reviewed items in general, but many of these items I have never seen or used in person. I may dabble in product reviews in the future, but for now, this is simply a collection of ideas that I hope you find useful.

Most of these links are "affiliate links", meaning that I may earn a small commission if you purchase something after following these links. Most of the links go to Amazon, but a few go to Carolina Biological Supply or to Orion Telescopes & Binoculars. So if you need any astronomy supplies for your home or classroom, you can help to sustain and grow this website if you purchase them through these links.

My Own Materials

Constellations For Kids — This is my first video course, covering the constellations, using some of my constellation worksheets as the primary activity. It covers most of the bright landmarks that you can see from the Northern Hemisphere, and it is aimed at roughly 10-year-olds, give or take a few years.

Thinking About Lunar Eclipses — This is a teacher's manual covering lunar eclipses. I know that “lunar eclipses” is a very narrow topic, but I think the manual is quite complete and authoritative, if I do say so myself, and there will be two lunar eclipses in 2022. I intend to wrap it into a broader unit on eclipses and the lunar cycle eventually.

The Discovery of Germs — This is my first book. It has no direct connection to astronomy, but if you are interested in astronomy education, perhaps you'll be interested in other areas of science education as well. It covers the historical span from approximately 1600 to 1900, from the invention of the microscope to our more or less modern understanding of microscopic life forms as the cause of infectious diseases. I think I managed to tell a fascinating and enlightening story for a general audience, but I specifically had young adults (and their parents and teachers) in mind when I wrote it. The link goes to Amazon, but if you prefer a different bookseller, you should be able to buy it online through most bookseller's websites.

Planispheres

If you want a simple map of outer space that you can make yourself out of paper, then may I suggest my own double-sided planispheres. If you are interested in purchasing a more durable and more precise commercial version, I recommend David Chandler's double-sided "Night Sky" design. Apparently everyone else prefers it, too, because most of the alternatives seem to be disappearing from the market. If you are already familiar with the constellations, the smaller versions can be handy as a pocket reference, but for educational purposes, I suggest the larger versions. Be sure to chose the one designed for the latitude closest to your own latitude.

"Night Sky" Planispheres

Large Size: 8" Diameter

Small Size: 5" Diameter

Special-Purpose Planispheres

These were designed by popular astronomy author Ken Graun, and they're huge—16" in diameter

Equatorial planisphere

There aren't many planispheres designed for equatorial regions. This is one, with instructions in English and Spanish.

Large planisphere

This one is intended to be an aid to finding interesting things to look at through a telescope. It's also 18" diameter.

Constellation Guides

If you want an overview of the important constellations, I have two recommendations. One is my own video course: Constellations For Kids. It contains 5½ hours of video, and provides a guided tour through my constellation worksheets. If you want a book, I can think of no better introduction to stargazing, especially for children, than Find the Constellations. It was written by H.A. Rey, whom you may recognize as the author of the Curious George series. It is a wonderful, simple little book, and a great introduction to stargazing for kids. (If you want to practice your identifications, using worksheets that actually resemble the sky, may I suggest my own downloadable Constellation Worksheets?)

Once you are familiar with the bright signposts and way-markers in the sky, you may want to go hunting for dimmer stuff. You may want to get out your binoculars or your telescope, and chase more elusive treasures in the heavens. For that purpose, you may want a more detailed constellation atlas. Just as a globe gives you an overview of the large-scale arrangement of the world, while an atlas gives you more detailed close-ups of the nations and seas, so a celestial globe (or double-sided planisphere) gives you an overview of the large-scale arrangement of the heavens, while a constellation atlas gives you more detailed close-ups of the constellations. With a constellation atlas, you can learn the names of the dimmer stars, and locate elusive but beautiful sights to hunt for with binoculars or a telescope.

For maps of every constellation, I suggest H.A. Rey's The Stars. It's a little longer and more technical than Find the Constellations, but not a lot, and it makes a good primer on the constellations for adults, or young adults. For a more detailed and professional atlas, suitable for adult hobbyists and amateur astronomers hunting with telescopes for nebulae and star clusters, I like The Monthly Sky Guide. I bought a copy many (ahem) years ago for a college class, and I still have it.

Globes

If you are in the market for commercial classroom globes, I think the globes from Sky & Telescope are the best. I have owned and can personally recommend their moon globe. Depending on your interests, you may also find some of the following advertisments interesting. Teachers may be especially interested in the inflatable writable globes.

Physical Globes

Political globes show how the world is divided into nations, and you can buy them anywhere. In contrast, physical or topographical globes show the landforms and natural features of the world. These are some physical globes, or 'dual' physical / political globes.

Moon Globes

Quality moon globes are hard to find. My favorite would be the one sold by Sky & Telescope, or the one from Carolina (see below), but you could also try searching Amazon to see if any catch your interest. These three look nice, but they are just a few of the first to come up in a search, and the list generally goes downhill from here.

Inflatable Globes

These are what you get if you draw the earth or the moon on a beach ball. They are cheap and fun to bat around a classroom. I would have thought that the writable inflatable globes would be popular among teachers, but apparently not. Amazon used to have a writable inflatable globe, but it went out of stock, and Carolina used to have a 24" diameter writable inflatable globe that I can't find anymore. However, there is still quite a variety of toy inflatable globes. If none of these strike your fancy, you can try browsing Amazon directly.

Inflatable Globes from Carolina

Inflatable Globes From Amazon

Foam Globes

These are what NERF would make if they made globes. They are small, light, squeezable, and can be purchased in bulk.

MOVA Globes

The MOVA company manufactures globes that are more decorative than educational, and they aren't cheap, but they are gorgeous. And they spin gracefully by themselves whenever they are in the light, with no batteries or wires or attachments of any kind. I own the celestial sphere version. (Mine is 8" in diameter—roughly the size and weight of a bowling ball—but I can't find that size on Amazon.)

These are 4.5" in diameter, and weigh about 4 pounds.


These are 6" in diameter, and weigh about 6 pounds.

Carolina Globes

As an alternative to Amazon, consider these globes from Carolina Biological Supply:

Celestial Globes

If you are interested in buying a commercial celestial sphere for your classroom, you may find the following list of advertisments to be a helpful starting place. I'm not normally a fan of cheap molded plastic stuff, but the "Little Experimenter" dual globe looks decent, and it's popular and well-rated.

Celestial Sphere Puzzle

Celestial Sphere Puzzle

This one deserves special mention. One of my longer-term goals has been to turn my dodecahedron celestial sphere design into a wooden or plastic version with separable parts, so you can disassemble and reassemble it as a puzzle. Being able to put together your own celestial sphere sounds like a really fun and useful educational tool to me, and a good way to practice your knowledge of the arrangement of the constellations. Imagine my wonder when I discovered that someone else had already made more or less the same thing. I don't own one (yet), but it looks beautiful.

Binoculars and Telescopes

If you aren't sure if a telescope is for you, and you are just looking to get your feet wet with a cheap practice telescope, you can search for telescopes on Amazon, and there's a guest editorial recommending a few cheap starter telescopes. But if you are really interested in getting into telescopes...if you think there's a chance you'll want to get lots of long term use out of it...if you are willing to invest a little time for research and some money on a reliable instrument...then I'd recommend consulting telescope specialists.

Cloudy Nights and Astronomics

Cloudy Nights is a community of amateur astronomers, and a free resource for those interested in observing the sky with optical equipment. They have free forums with over 140,000 members, and among many others, there's a forum for discussion of equipment. You can search for used equipment using their classifieds. And there is a section where users leave reviews of equipment. That latter might be difficult to navigate for a novice astronomer, but it might make for good study material.

Cloudy Nights is a free resource used by over a hundred thousand people, and it is sponsored entirely by Astronomics. According to their website: "Astronomics is a family-owned business that has been supplying amateur astronomers, schools, businesses, and government agencies with the right optical equipment and the right advice since 1979." I bought my own telescope long before I knew about Astronomics, but I'm impressed by their websites, and I'd definitely give them some attention if I was interested in buying a telescope today.

Orion Telescopes & Binoculars

The Orion Corporation is another reputable, established dealer of optical instruments, and they offer some guidance on their website.

Telescope Buyer’s GuideSee what’s in the night sky?Orion Helpful Astronomical Guides