In its 14th issue, the Astronomy Education Review (AER), a web-based journal about astronomy education and outreach, introduced a new section dedicated to teaching astronomy through demonstrations. John Keller of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and Steve Pompea of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory organized a set of seven educator-submitted ideas for hands-on learning in the classroom.
There are a mixture of models, demonstrations, and even a kinesthetic learning activity. And you don’t have to bust your wallet. Some of them would even work as recreation projects for you, your kids, and their friends as well. Getting students actively involved in their learning and providing them with visual opportunities for understanding increases interest and overall retention of information (at least that’s what my friends in education say). So why not try one of these projects out in your house, or encourage the teachers in your area to incorporate one of the demonstrations into their lesson plans? It might engage a new fascination with astronomy.
I appreciate the move taken by AER in popularizing hands-on training in the case of astronomy. It's a sector where applied knowledge matters more than only conceptual learning. In fact being a physics teacher at an Indian school, even I have recommended weaving in practical learning along with theory. Last year five of my students, interested in space studies, went for the Space Camp India (spacecampindia.com/index.htm) on my suggestion. After coming back they told me that what they've learnt at the camp is more than any textbook could ever teach them! Practical learning always help in better retention, as well as tests the aptitude of the person in a certain field.