Category: Free Inquiry

Astronomy in the Classroom

I’ve been looking into astronomy for my free inquiry and have been considering some ways that I might incorporate what I’ve learned into the classroom. I thought it might be a challenge to find ways to do it that did not revolve around science and physics, since those topics are definitely beyond my expertise.

I was surprised at how easy it was to find resources, particularly specific lesson plans just through a quick google search. There were tons of great examples, but my favourite was one that I found on constellations. It’s cross-disciplinary, somehow managing to involve graphing, using online navigation tools, reading legends and creating their own stories all in the span of two short lessons. (Check it out here!)

I’m really excited about incorporating some of what I have learned about this topic into my classroom. I did not expect to find as many potential applications as I have, and I’m particularly interested in looking more into how this could be a great topic for some kind of cross-curricular unit.

 

Constellations and Myths

For my exploration of astronomy as part of my free inquiry, I wanted to look at some of the myths surrounding the constellations. Myths are relevant to me as both a future English and Social Studies teacher- I recently completed a project that involved a myth based legend for a Comparative Cultures 12 class.

In the western world, the myths we associate with constellations come predominantly from Greek mythology. I took at a look at the myth behind the constellation Cancer (just because it’s my star sign). The myth behind Cancer the Crab is part of the story of the Greek hero Hercules and his twelve labours. It describes how Hera sent the crab to grab Hercules by the heel and distract him from his task of fighting a Hydra, but Hercules crushed the crab under his other foot. Zeus then placed the Crab into the sky to commemorate Hercules’s victory and remind Hera of her failure.

Cancer

The Native American myth tells the story of how starts came to be. It tells of a world where there were no stars, meaning that the “animal people” struggled to find their way in full darkness and went to their creator for help. The creator tells them to collect sharp stones which could be made into stars. A coyote was asked to help smaller animals make pictures in the sky with these stones, but the coyote was not helpful and some of the pictures were incomplete. The story says that the coyote howls because he never finished his own picture and he is filled with regret.

Comparing these two myths give some context for how we might understand astronomy and myths about it differently depending on cultural lenses. In addition, without even looking for particular formats, the first resource I found for a Greek constellation myth was written, while the first resource I found for an Indigenous myth was a recording of an Oral  story, which reflects how each type of story would likely have been told.

Youtube and the Universe

For this post, I decided to explore some YouTube videos on the topic of astronomy. I have been seeing teachers use brief “crash course” style videos in classrooms fairly frequently and have found they can communicate ideas in an efficient and engaging way. I wanted to try learning about a topic for myself through this process since I’ve observed it being so effective.

I really enjoyed this video in particular, as it broke down some very complicated ideas and made them simple to understand, even for someone like me with no considerable physics background.

For this post, I decided to explore some YouTube videos on the topic of astronomy. I have been seeing teachers use brief “crash course” style videos in classrooms fairly frequently and have found they can communicate ideas in an efficient and engaging way. I wanted to try learning about a topic for myself through this process since I’ve observed it being so effective.

I really enjoyed this video in particular, as it broke down some very complicated ideas and made them simple to understand, even for someone like me with no considerable physics background.

I’m glad I tried out this approach to learning about a topic that’s entirely new to me. It worked really well in terms of orienting me to a topic that would otherwise be relatively inaccessible to me. I’ll definitely consider using videos like this in my classroom, especially when I’m introducing an unfamiliar or challenging topic to students.

I’m glad I tried out this approach to learning about a topic that’s entirely new to me. It worked really well in terms of orienting me to a topic that would otherwise be relatively inaccessible to me. I’ll definitely consider using videos like this in my classroom, especially when I’m introducing an unfamiliar or challenging topic to students.

Free Inquiry Update

One of the main tools I use when stargazing is the Skyview app, which essentially allows you to hold your phone up to the night sky and tells you what you’re looking at in real time.

You can look for stars, constellations, galaxies and satellites, and everything is labeled with the option to click on the caption for more information. This is an amazing tool, especially for a beginner because it gives some context for what you’re seeing when you look up at the sky. The level of detail that it provides is amazing; for example, right now I am looking at a rocket that’s in the sky tonight and I can see it’s launch place and date, how high in the sky it is and a number of other facts about it.

My favourite feature has to be the illustrations of the constellations that appear overlaid on top of the stars. Recognizing constellations is something I have always had difficulty with, so being able to look at the pictures as I look at the stars is amazing.

Last night in Wrightwood captured this constellation view using Skyview app.

This app is a great example of how technology can be used to support learning. For me, it’s much easier to make the connection between what I am seeing and what I know about it when I have all the information in one place right in front of me.

Free Inquiry: Why This Topic? And How?

For my free inquiry, I have chosen to explore the topic of astronomy. I decided I wanted to spend my inquiry exploring stargazing and astronomy because it’s a topic where I feel my knowledge and experience are not as strong as my interest. My grandfather loved astronomy and shared his passion with me as I was growing up. I can’t remember a time I visited my grandparents house when there wasn’t a stack of astronomy magazines on the coffee table. His interest in the topic was mostly scientific, and while that is an important element, I want to focus on some of the other aspects of the topic.

#Astronomy

I decided to use this week’s blog post to work through some of the questions I have and consider where I might go with this inquiry. Here are a few topics I want to consider as I develop my project.

  • Myths and Legends: Where did the constellations get their names and where do the myths about these characters come from? Do different cultures have different stories about the stars? How have these myths been adapted into other stories throughout time? Do they still resonate?
  • Religion: What do people believe about the universe and how has this been influenced by what we can see in the night sky? How have astronomical discoveries challenged religious belief?
  • Navigation: When and where were the stars used as a primary means of navigation? How does this type of navigation work? How might it still be useful in light of modern technology?
  • The History of Astronomy: How did our understanding of astronomy develop based on scientific discovery? How did this change what people believed about the world? What historical factors have influenced the drive and perhaps resistance to explore space?

These topics are all interrelated of course, and I anticipate that I may generate more questions as I continue with my inquiry. I’d also like to document my own experience with observation whenever the sky is clear enough. My overall goal is to learn as much as I can about this topic to ultimately be able to draw some meaning from what I can see and observe with my own eyes.

 

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