This course outline is designed to follow a unit which introduces earth science and geology along with the scientific method and basic science skills. It begins with phenomena students are already familiar with, such as moon phases, and the differences in scales between earth bound science and astronomy. Students begin daily observations of sunspots.
Students learn about gravity in the context of the solar system and its many orbiting bodies, also considering conditions and characteristics of planets, moons and comets. Make a Comet requires a little simple equipment and introduces ideas about solar system evolution and life origins. With access to some funds, students can use a kit to make a simple telescope.
At this point, emphasis shifts to the examination of the Sun as a model star, then to larger structures, the Big Bang theory, the expanding universe, and the prevalence of dark matter.
Hands-on activities include observing the Sun and spotting planets, making a comet, simulating the moon's phases and eclipses of the Sun and moon, and simulating changing day length in different seasons. If the class or grade has a scheduled camping trip, take advantage of the opportunity to do some real observing. You can get help preparing for naked eye observations in the activity "Find That Planet!," You can make sky maps for any date, time and place using the program "Your Sky" at Fourmilab's north American reflector site. Here is a useful on-line list from ASP* . See also the backyard observing tips from Sky and Telescope magazine. And don't forget to look up a local amateur astronomy club! Amateur astronomers are often more than willing to help out with educational groups.
Week 1: Scale of the Universe
Science Probe Reading: VoIume §14.3, Distances to Stars, Volume I § 14.5, The Brightness of Stars
Week 2: Observing the Sky: The Sun, Moon, and Nearby Planets
Week 3: What's interesting about the solar system?
Week 4: Motion and Light: Gravity and Electromagnetic Radiation.
Resource pages: Gravity, Orbits and Planetary Motion, The Electromagnetic Spectrum , NASA Astronomy Missions
Independent Research Project: Research an astronomy satellite mission using NASA Space Resources as a starting point Students gather information on missions that use different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and prepare presentations using viewgraphs or PowerPoint.
Week 5: Are All Stars the Same?
Week 6: Where Did the Universe Come From?