The study of the stars and moon can entice kids into a greater interest in math and science, while tying into the fun of thinking about aliens and rockets and being weightless. Your backyard can be a source of fun astronomy projects that are both historical and immediate. Try these five projects for a simple start into the world of astronomy.
Build a Backyard Solar Viewing Pond
While in Peru, we visited the famous Machu Pichu ruins where ancient astronomers dug out small areas in the rock and allowed rain water to collect. By standing nearby, visitors could see a reflection of the sun in the water surface. Kids can make their own solar viewing pond by digging out an area in the dirt and planting a metal or ceramic bowl and filling it with water. Parents should have kids decorate the bowl edges so it looks natural. An added advantage is it will help provide other wildlife a drink of water or bath.
Photograph the Moon's Phases
If you have a digital camera and a tripod, this project will teach children how the phases of the moon differ and how long it takes to get from full moon back to full moon. Starting on the night of a full moon, set up a tripod where the moon is visible at a given time. Every night for a month, attach the camera before that time and take the picture. After a month, have your child reduce the picture size  and load them into Flicker.
Build Constellation Stepping Stones
Once a month, identify a constellation. Have your child draw a map of the stars for the constellation on a piece of paper for use later. Look up the names of each of the planets and their magnitude. Develop a color map for the different magnitudes of stars. Using this color map, find one stone in the right color for every star in the constellation for the month. Buy ReadyMix concrete and pour a stepping stone using a form. When the concrete has set up enough to remove the form, press the outline of the constellation into the stepping stone using the diagram made earlier and the colored stones. Right in the name of the constellation and any stars.
Build a Sundial
Pour a round circle of concrete and place a wire, metal rod, or other object at the center and let it harden. Collect twelve small stones or decorative objects. On the next sunny day, start as early as possible and using a good watch or satellite clock, check where the sticks shadow lies and place a stone every hour on the hour. Using a compass, place the night time stones at equal intervals to complete the time scale. Pour an additional ring of cement and place the stones in it to make the time numbering for the sundial permanent.
These project will provide a lasting memory that your child will value and a fun decoration for your garden. Have fun.