Tonight, our Regional Science Center has planned a Full Moon Walk. This event features a walk on the prairie trails at Buffalo River State Park at dusk during the full moon (or nearly full moon). On such a walk we could hear coyotes, amphibians, and other noise-making critters. If the sky were clear, we would observe the moon and other night sky targets with telescopes and binoculars.
Alas, the sky is overcast here again, with a chance of showers and possibly even snowflakes. I wanted to take my boys out for this. I picked up a second backpack baby carrier for the occasion, but I think we will pass on the walk this time. There is another walk in June which should work better for us, as long as we have insect repellant.
However, I recommend a Full Moon Walk as a fun thing to do with your little astronomers. While professional astronomers may think of the moon as a nemesis whose brightness impedes serious observation (bright moon nights are called bright time, less bright moon nights are called grey time; dark time is optimal for observing faint objects), the moon is an easy object for kids to love. You can do your own Full Moon Walk as a family, or you can search the Internet to see if there are any Full Moon Walks sponsored by a state park or facility near you.
A Full Moon Walk is best done out in the country away from city lights. This way you and your young astronomers can fully appreciate how much the full moon illuminates the countryside. Be sure to notice how much it illuminates the sky as well–the full moon can overwhelm even bright stars, making them difficult to see.
Depending on your location, the sights and sounds you can appreciate on your walk will differ. Here on the prairie, we can expect to hear coyotes, amphibians–if near a natural water source–, and crickets. You can make a game of identifying the sounds you hear and the animals you see. Other activities you could do are hide-and-seek (set up predetermined boundaries beforehand) or Frisbee with a glow-in-the-dark or light-up Frisbee.
To make it easy on yourselves, you can stick to walking known paths or quiet country roads that do not get much traffic. If you’re more adventurous or want to step things up a level after doing a few Full Moon Walks, you can try night hiking. Here and here are a couple of guides to getting around in the woods or cross country on a night hike.
The full moon rises at sunset and is visible all night. It sets at sunrise. Happy hiking!