Hello! This week has been pretty eventful with observing, activities, and content.
On Tuesday, students presented their constellation mythology and drawings. We backed this up with a presentation on seasons and the tilt of the Earth. Students were able to construct their own Solar Motion Demonstrator so that they can see the path and amount of time the sun is in the sky at a given latitude. We finished the day with moon phases. Students were asked to research information about phases and why they occur. Then, each group presented their finding visually and verbally to other groups. The highlight of the day was the extended study hall! We took our first observing trip to a remote location about 10 minutes from campus. Students were taught how to locate common, large constellations in our current night sky. We also took out two telescopes so that we could take a better look at the moon and the planet Saturn. Students were very excited to go out for the first time and apply some of the tools and skills they have learned in class. As is astronomy tradition, on the way back home, we got lost and had to stop for “directions” at Sonic!
Wednesday was an activity filled day! We started the morning with an assessment on the Visible Sky Unit so that we could gauge the students’ understanding of the material of the first unit. To begin the next unit, we started with an activity where each person wrote down every word that they already knew about stars. Then, they shared their responses with their groups and the groups made a Web using the words from their list. These webs were posted along the wall and groups will add to them as they learn new information. It was a great way for Mrs. Poteet and I to determine where each student was in their prior knowledge of stars. We backed this up with a video on constellations from the History Channel’s The Universe series. After lunch, we focused on classification and its importance. First, the students participated in a Bertie Bott’s Jelly Bean activity using Dichotomous Keys to determine one method of classification. We discussed the pros and cons of the classification scheme. We then extended this activity to classifying stars. Groups were given 25 stars of different colors, sizes, names, temperatures, and luminosities. It was their responsibility to determine five different schemes to classify the stars The students then made posters depicting their classifications. Afterwards, we discussed how stars are actually classified using Spectral Classes and H-R Diagrams. During study hall, we discussed the Sagan reading about scientific evidence and thought. Groups interacted with one another first, then we had a class discussion. Many students showed critical thinking skills and listened to one another to reformulate their own ideas.
Thursday, we began with students adding onto their Stars Web. The students then engaged in group research on a topic of their choice related to stars. Each group gave a presentation on their findings. Topics included dwarf stars, supergiants, etc. Dr. Carini from the physics department invited the astronomers to the planetarium and gave them a tour of the sky. Students really enjoyed this interaction and were able to learn more constellations and see the night sky as the year progressed. We ended the day with determining the scale of the solar system/universe and began working on their planetary presentations.
We hope the students are enjoying class as much as we are!