Melissa Short

"If a teacher can get a student to day dream about the material being taught they are a successful teacher."


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Why is the Astronomy important?

Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences and has been studied for hundreds of years. It has been a huge source of wonder and amazement throughout time. It is important to understand our universe for both science and pleasure. From an instructional standpoint, it is important that students understand not only the world around them but the whole universe around them. Astronomy makes it possible for us to study phenomena at scales of size, mass, distance, density, temperature, and especially time, which cannot be reproduced in the lab. Astronomical phenomena have also affected us on a historical scale; for example asteroid impacts have had major impacts on the history of life. It is also a great way to interest students in science and help them want to become scientists when they are older.

Why is it important to explore Astronomy with literature and literature-related materials?

Because astronomy has been studied for so long, there are numerous societies and types of text from which to find information. It is important to look at different times and cultures in order to understand both the science and wonder of the skies above the Earth. Non-fiction pieces will teach about the scientific side of things, while fiction pieces will help one understand the feelings of awe one gets while looking into the stars. Electronic sources, such as websites, are extremely important in science as one must stay up-to-date with the latest information, which is always changing in science. Electronic sources also give us interactive maps and charts, which are helpful when trying to understand the more difficult scientific processes behind astronomy.


Electronic Sources
This website is a blog that posts short segments a few times a week about recent happenings in astronomy and outer space. The blog covers many topics, such as recent discoveries, reminders about things like the spring and fall equinoxes and the time change, and information about history in astronomy. The site has a lot of links to resources and books to further one’s knowledge on astronomy and sites to buy telescopes and other astronomy goods. It has many articles on topics such as purchasing a telescope, interviews with amateur astronomers, and informative articles. It also has a sky guide that shows what the sky will look like for the next few weeks, which stars are visible, and highlights special events that may be happening in the sky at that time.
Astronomy is a popular magazine devoted to astronomy. This is the website for the magazine, on which one can order issues of the magazine, read about current information in astronomy, and look at star charts and maps. The website also includes videos and podcasts for one to enjoy. The site goes beyond the magazine with its interactive maps and guides that further the information found in the magazine. One of the best perks of the site seems to be the free newsletter with news, information, and observing tips that you can have emailed to you each week.
The Hubble site is a multi-faceted source that allows one to explore our universe through video, audio, and text sources. There is a link off the homepage, called “Tonight’s Sky,” that shows the current night sky in a video, including the constellations and planets one would see in the sky that night. There seems to be a lot of interactive quizzes and features that allow one to explore the universe, along with tons of videos and podcasts to help one learn. The GSKY browser and Hubble in WWT are sky browsers that allow one to explore the night sky using real Hubble images and Google Earth, just like looking through a telescope.
This site, put on by NASA, is an interactive tour of the first 50 years of NASA’s exploration. It includes virtual tours, clickable models and exhibits, video galleries, and information about astronauts, all lead by a robot guide named Automa. The site includes events from NASA’s past and history at the same time, such the fall of the Berlin wall and the liftoff of the first space shuttle. The whole site is very interactive and “cool” and has a lot of different things to click on and learn about. The current music that plays automatically will also help keep students interested. The links on the site are also very helpful, bringing students to NASA’s other pages and to sites about the history of space, organized by decade.


Non-fiction pieces

Sky & Telescope’s Pocket Sky Atlas – Roger W. Sinnott
This is an atlas of the sky with charts to allow one to see where the stars and constellations are located in the sky. The charts give enough detail to allow one to look for the stars in the sky or to just look at the pictures and learn that way. The stars are labeled, stick figures on the maps highlight the constellations, and an all sky view key of the charts is provided in the book so one can easily locate which map they would like to look at. There are also directions to make a star finder in order to see which stars would be visible at a certain time and date. This seems to be an excellent book to both learn from and take outside with you to identify the stars in the sky, which will help students make connections between what they are learning and "real-life" outside of school.

Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide (Wiley Self-Teaching Guides) – Dinah L. Moche
This book is a simple guide to introduce one to the wonders of astronomy. It is written for the beginner in order to help them understand the principles of astronomy and help them start observing the night sky. It includes tables, charts, and maps of the moon and stars to help one visualize the sky and understand the more difficult concepts of astronomy. It even includes objectives and self-tests for one to use it as a self-teaching or to supplement to astronomy course materials. This seems like a good book for both the student and the teacher: the student as a way to delve deeper into interesting scientific topics and the teacher as a supplement to their classroom activities.

Fiction pieces

Contact – Carl Sagan
This is a science fiction book that has been made into a movie! The book takes place in December of 1999, as a team of scientists must be ready for anything to happen as the new millennium comes in. They have spent years looking for intelligent life in space and believes they have found some deep in space, where they must travel to meet it. The author looks at science, government, and religion and how they will impact the future. Reviewers on say that the book is better than the movie as the book has more developed characters and several different side-plots that the movie cannot include. This is a book that is dramatic and authentic in that one can imagine events similar to the book taking place tomorrow and altering the world as we know it. Books that have been made into movies are always popular with students and the movie can be used to help struggling readers understand the plot or as a comparison to the book.

Space Race – Sylvia Waugh
This is the first book of a trilogy by British author Sylvia Waugh. The other two books in the trilogy are called Earthborn and Who Goes Home. These books are geared towards middle school readers, though its 200+ pages and small print may put off struggling readers. It is “highly recommended for eleven year olds upwards as readers of all ages will make connections with it at various levels." This book is important to include as it appeals to a wide variety of readers and students. Throughout the trilogy, 11 year old Thomas Derwent and his father Patrick are called to end their life in England and return home to Ormingat, their home planet. They have been living as undercover humans for the last five years observing and recording human life by living as members of the community. In Space Race, the father and son are separated as they make their way home and must race against time to get back together and return home.


Instructional Pieces
Amazing Space is a whole website dedicated to educators in connection with the Hubble site. It has teaching tools such as interactive activities, graphic organizers, and science content reading selections. It also includes “Astronomy Basics,” which are overviews about many of the different aspects of astronomy (such as black holes, stars, galaxies, etc.) for teachers to give them a quick overview of the topic in order to better answer student questions. One of the Classroom Activities included on the site is called “Group the Galaxies” and is a lesson plan targeted for students in fifth through seventh grade. During this lesson, the students are introduced to the information about different galaxies on trading cards and must create categories based on patterns in the information on the cards. The lesson plan, trading cards, and supplemental reading for students are included in the plan.
Here is another website designed for teachers about astronomy. While it doesn’t include specific lesson plans, it is full of worksheets, maps, games, and activities for teachers to use in their classroom. One of the main features of the site is the online astronomy academy. It is made up of two courses, one for students ages 7-11 and one for students ages 12-18. Each course is made up of 8 packets of activities and questions and ends with a final project. The course is set up for students to ideally complete one packet each week, so teachers could easily turn it into an 8-week unit plan about astronomy. The answers to the questions are given for the teacher, and the packets are nicely laid out with short reading assignments for students, followed by questions, and even include sheets for the students to record their answers. Students can even earn certificates by completing the packets.