Saturday, December 7, 2013

A New Look at Astronomy

Last week was the last week of our trimester, and thereby our Astronomy unit.  Here’s a brief look at what we did during this unit:

1.  We read some wonderful children’s literature, including the Magic Tree House book Midnight on the Moon and the nonfiction companion book Space.

2.  We spent a month observing the moon and drawing our observations.  Download this observation sheet from Google Docs.

Lunar observation journal - free download from Raki's Rad Resources

3.  We watched multiple movies, including the Magic School Bus Out of This World, Citizen Sky, The Universe – Phases of the Moon, Eyes on the Skies, A Day in the Life of an Astronaut, NASA’s Our World Series and a great TED-Ed Video called Questions No One Knows the Answer To.

4.  We learned about the power and movement of the son and even created our own sun dials with a paper plate.  This was a fun project, although time consuming because it meant going outside each hour on the hour to mark our sun dial.  However at the end of the day, the kids had a great record of the sun’s movements over the course of the day.  Of course, I forgot to take a picture at the end of the day, but here’s a beginning of the day picture!

Making sundials with paper plates.

5.  We discussed the possibility of alien life forms and brainstormed an argument for or against these theories on this cute sheet.  (Download it free from Google Docs.)

Do you believe in aliens?  why or why not?  Free Writing Prompt for elementary school - Raki's Rad Resources

6.  We took a field trip to the Observatory in Rabat.  The kids had a chance to use a large telescope to look at the sun spot, as well as experience a planetarium show and ask questions of the resident astronomer.

  Field trip to the observertoire de rabat Observatory in Rabat

7.  We learned about famous astronomers who shaped the way that we think about the universe.  First, we learned about all of the scientists and added them to our community time line, which hangs out in the hall outside our classroom. 

community time line

Then, the students worked in pairs to research one of the scientists further.  They used the templates from my Historical Figures Research Project to do their research, using a combination of websites and books.

Historical Figures Research Project From their research, they developed scripts of a mock interview between a t.v. host and their astronomer.  Using Puppet Pals and iMovie, they created videos with their scripts.  Here is one student example:

My students really enjoyed this look at astronomy and each and everyone of them came out with our enduring understandings:  1.)  Our ideas about space have changed over time.  2.) Objects in space orbit around other objects in set patterns that help us predict what conditions are like in far away places.  3.) Our universe is so vast we can’t understand everything about it yet.

What do you teach your students about space?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources