While space science has the potential to be an amazingly interesting and captivating subject for students of all ages, there is no avoiding the very abstract concepts associated with the distances between celestial bodies, the incredible speed of light, and the relationship between time, speed, and what we can observe beyond our own planet. Size, distance, time, etc. are all relative terms that have no foundation in anything concrete or permanent, and this poses a real issue for both educators and students. I would argue that most students under the age of eleven have an extremely difficult time trying to get their heads around these very complex topics, and I don't think that anyone - regardless of their age - would consider such topics to be easy.
Because I work with younger students (grades 4 through 6) and have many students with special needs in my classes, I often find myself searching for resources that will help students comprehend abstract subjects and increase their chances of developing a sincere appreciation for topics associated with astronomy and physics. As a result of this research, I now know that students often run into issues (and often become discouraged) mostly from introductions to complex topics that are dry, are not meaningful, and do not provide students with opportunities to explore and [i]develop[/i] and understanding of them - instead, we present them with formulas and texts that are even more abstract and somehow expect them to come to some profound realization about the structure of the universe. Rather than [i]imposing[/i] such knowledge upon them, how about we actually let them explore the beauty of the universe on their own?
While there is definitely no "silver bullet" that can teach students all about the complexities of the universe, one powerful tool that we have at our disposal is multimedia. While teaching an after-school group of sixth-grade students, I pulled up an interactive video called "Scale of Universe" ([url=http://www.scaleofuniverse.com]http://www.scaleofuniverse.com[/url]) which really helped to put things into perspective and even scared a few students.
Internet resources such as the new version of Google Earth also allow students to navigate the sky themselves and even explore the Moon and Mars. Another one of my very favorites is HubbleSite ([url=http://www.hubblesite.org]http://www.hubblesite.org[/url]). This site allows students to explore the more exotic areas of the universe, including black holes. Try this out to really get in the [url=http://hubblesite.org/explore_astronomy/black_holes/modules.html]driver's seat[/url].
Never underestimate the power of interactive technology. This priceless tool allows us to make these seemingly impossible topics to teach truly come alive for all students. Don't be surprised if you have to drag your students out of the classroom after showing these.