Earth and Space Science

Astronomy Elective Course for Middle School

Tue Nov 09, 2010 7:32 PM

I developed and taught two elective courses that focused on Astronomy for 6th through 8th grade students. As I taught students over the years, I found that middle school students are intrinsically fascinated by and motivated to learn about astronomy! I began by offering a basic astronomy class to 6th grade students, and within a year they were begging for a part two course, so I developed a course called, "Research in Astronomy" for 7th and 8th grade students. These courses were semester-long, and were wildly successful. I was wondering if any other teachers have either developed similar courses or would be interesting in attempting to offer such a course in their school? NASA and NSTA have absolutely incredible resources that make teaching a course like this- as long as you do have ready access to computers with Internet access on an ongoing basis- available. Is there any interest in generating more discussion about this topic?

Dorian Janney
Dorian Janney
10465 Activity Points

Mon Jun 27, 2016 11:58 PM

Hello!,

Do you mind sending me the course description for Astronomy and Research in Astronomy and the curriculum map.

My email is: Ghassan.Elturk@isas.sch.ae
Science Coordinator. (International School of Arts & Sciences).

Ghassan El Turk
Ghassan El Turk
480 Activity Points

Tue Nov 08, 2016 1:05 PM

Hi Ms. Janney,
I am going to teach a group of 8th graders Astronomy elective next semester and would love if you could send me a copy of this course that you have developed if possible. This would be a big help because i never did astronomy as a course in college. My email is mmorgan@gmcs.k12.nm.us

Morris Morgan

Morris Morgan
Morris Morgan
10 Activity Points

Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:25 AM

[i]"I was wondering if any other teachers have either developed similar courses or would be interesting in attempting to offer such a course in their school? NASA and NSTA have absolutely incredible resources that make teaching a course like this- as long as you do have ready access to computers with Internet access on an ongoing basis- available. Is there any interest in generating more discussion about this topic?"
[/i]
Hi Dorian,
I teach an pre service and in service course for new science teachers on Earth in the Solar System. The focus of the course is middle level. The new research in astronomy is an area I am constantly updating ! Not only NASA resources but space explorations with the European Space Agency and the Japan Aeorspace Exploration are important for students to explore.

What new research areas do you explore with students? I find teacher interest in probes ( Cassini- Huygens, Messenger and New Horizons ) and the Solar Dynamic Observatory to be hot topics.

Would love to explore new research in astronomy with you and others. Also How to approach these concepts with students in middle school

Arlene JL

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
41595 Activity Points

Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:24 AM

Hi Dorian and Arlene (and others),
I was interested that you had the option to create an elective in middle school, Dorian. Does that mean that astronomy is not part of your core science curriculum? In the school that I taught in for several years,students did not have elective choices. Our science curriculum spiraled from one grade to the next, and students received instruction in all 4 major science disciplines every year. For astronomy (as part of the earth/space science curriculum), they learned about the Earth, Moon and Sun in sixth grade; they learned about the solar system in seventh grade (and reviewed Earth,Moon & Sun); and they learned about the Universe and the Electromagnetic Spectrum in eighth grade.
I was very appreciative of the NASA resources, too. I also tried to attend as many of their presentations at NSTA conventions. They really helped to deepen/broaden my knowledge base. I would be interested in "probing" deeper into this topic with you, Arlene and other interested individuals.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79328 Activity Points

Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:50 PM

Greetings folks,

I am glad this topic has spurred some interest. At our school, we did include astronomy content in our grade level units, but we found that the kids were really motivated by the topic. This motivation was strong enough to develop an elective course, similar to an extra course that students could take if they had room in their schedule- like art, band, etc... So, I used some of the Maryland State Reading and Math MSA (Maryland State Assessment) goals which were at the middle school level, as well as some of our science content goals- not just in astronomy but also in physics, chemistry, and geology (also at the middle school level)- to build the underlying structure of the course. From there, I developed a series of lessons that moved from the Earth to the Moon and then the Sun and out into the the Solar System and then into our Milky Way galaxy, and then on to galaxies and the universe! To Infinity and Beyond!

For those of you who might like to begin an elective course that focuses on astronomy- or who have a course like this at their school- what do you use to form the basic underlying structure- the scaffolding- of this course?

Dorian Janney
Dorian Janney
10465 Activity Points

Fri Nov 26, 2010 11:04 PM

My alternative middle school's enrollment is from homes throughout our district. There are no afterschool activity buses. Each of our content area teachers try to offer some type of enrichment class every quarter. As mentioned throughout this thread, middle school students are often intrigued by astronomy.

I discovered that NSTA has four Interactive Resources that are available to educators and offer great starting points for teachers that want to begin an enrichment class or as a starting point in developing a mini-unit. The Interactive Resource: Astronomy with a Stick / Day into Night is a hands-on daytime and nighttime set of astronomy lessons for middle school students. The lessons were developed by retired science teacher and former NSTA president Sylvia Shugrue.

Do any of you use other resources through NSTA or NASA to supplement an astronomy program?

Alyce Dalzell
Alyce Dalzell
64065 Activity Points

Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:34 AM

I was wondering if any other teachers have either developed similar courses or would be interesting in attempting to offer such a course in their school? NASA and NSTA have absolutely incredible resources that make teaching a course like this- as long as you do have ready access to computers with Internet access on an ongoing basis- available.

Dorian, what a great topic! I was very excited to stumble on this discussion since space science and astronomy are two of my favorite topics, and I'm always looking for new ideas to pass my love of space (and science) onto my students. Like Carolyn, I've never had a chance to teach at a school where science courses, like astronomy, are offered as electives. What a great opportunity for your students! Arlene and Alyce posted some great resources. I've attached a few more resources that I've used in both formal and informal education (like boy scouts, boys & girls club after school programs, etc). One of the resources I attached is a link to the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program. This is a group of volunteers who work to educate students about the universe. You can find the ambassador closest to you by clicking on your state from the provided link. I've worked as an SSA for 1.5 years, and I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have about the program.
I'd really like to hear more about your astronomy program. Specifically, how do you conduct research with your students?


Astronomy Resources Collection
(4 items)
Hands-on Universe
     -User Uploaded Resource
Solar System Ambassador Directory
     -User Uploaded Resource
Astronomy Educator's Resource Guide
     -User Uploaded Resource

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
40795 Activity Points

Tue Nov 30, 2010 8:11 PM

I have found that there are so many wonderful resources available through NASA that it pretty much is everything I can do to simply try to keep up! I taught the Astronomy elective course at the sixth and seventh grade levels for five years, and each semester would do different activities and use different resources,depending on the interests and ability levels of my students. I had this luxury as it was an elective course, although I did have to make sure that I was covering the basic indicators- which included objectives in mathematics, reading, writing, science, and technology. Here are just some of the things that I did and the resources I used.

- Each student would select a mission, usually a NASA mission, to become a "Mission Specialist" on. They had a list that I generated (it is on my work computer but I will upload it tomorrow)that included over 40 NASA missions, and I organized them by what type of object the mission studied; i.e. Venus, Moon, Earth, Sun, the Universe, etc... They would use the NASA mission website to find information out in four categories: background information (what the mission was planing to study, what missions had already been there and some of the findings, etc...), purpose (Why was the mission studying this object? What were the scientific questions it hoped to answer? ), mission details (scientific instruments onboard, when it was/will be launched, etc...) and results (What data did this mission collect? What did they learn from this data? etc...) I created separate capture sheets for each of these categories, and as they collected their information, they would share in with their table team about their progress on their research. Each student created a PowerPoint which they would share with the class as they finished their research, and they worked at their own pace on this project. They loved doing this, and were able to really grasp how we learn about objects in space, and the Earth, using NASA missions. The basic site to start with for this project is the NASA homepage,http://www.nasa.gov/home/index.html, and then have them go to the missions link. I also have the various mission homepages embedded in the document which I will post from work tomorrow. I will also post the supporting documents that I used for this project. I also do this with my inservice teachers and they gain a great deal from this as well!

Learning Center Online Advisors
Learning Center Online Advisors
36520 Activity Points

Tue Nov 30, 2010 8:49 PM

Fri Dec 03, 2010 12:28 PM

I apologize for not posting the previous email using my personal log in. I had mistakenly assumed I was logged in as myself and not using the online advisor account, and didn't realize it until I just logged on today. Sigh... In the previous post I included a myriad of supporting documents that I created to support my students as they conduct research on and create both a PowerPoint presentation and a research paper on. Here is a document I created that lists over fourty NASA missions that they can choose from, as well as having embedded links to take them to the home page for each mission.

Attachments

Dorian Janney
Dorian Janney
10465 Activity Points

Sat Jan 01, 2011 7:58 PM

The following are some great Astronomy Resources


Universe Collection
(3 items)
Invite an Alien to Astronomy Night
     -Journal Article
Cartooning Your Way to Student Motivation
     -Journal Article
Our Place in the Spongy Universe
     -Journal Article

LeRoy Attles
LeRoy Attles
56470 Activity Points

Sun Jan 02, 2011 1:14 PM

Thanks for the great ideas and article on Astronomy. I agree that sixth graders are very intrigued about the universe. I share their fascination with the universe. It is my favorite topic in Earth Science!!!

Nikki Turner
Nikki Turner
20105 Activity Points

Thu Jan 06, 2011 3:05 PM

Dorian, thanks for sharing the NASA mission link and all of the wonderful astronomy resources! It will be a huge help for any teacher wanting to introduce this into his/her curriculum.
Nikki, please feel free to share any resources you may have on your favorite topic. It is fantastic to learn from each other!
LeRoy, you Universe Collection was timely for me. I want to incorporate a cartooning assignment into my elementary science methods class. This will be a great resource.

Maureen said:
I'd really like to hear more about your astronomy program. Specifically, how do you conduct research with your students?
I don't want the question to get lost amongst all of the great resources that have been shared.
Be Well,
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79328 Activity Points

Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:01 PM

Greetings folks!

I conducted research with my middle school students in many ways.

They used the observational research method when they used the resources available in the Space Weather Action Centers: http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/swac/ and have them determine whether or not there might be auroral activity in the Northern Hemisphere based on data from various sources.

They used experimental research methods when they would develop their own testable questions: such as "Is there a correlation between the number of sunspots and the mean surface temperature in Maryland?" and they would use sunspotters to looks for sunspots and use three different temperature readings and find the mean surface temperature and graph their data to look for patterns and trends.

They also did research when they found out about various NASA missions and reported their findings to the class.

We also used some of the materials from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory "Teacher Leaders in Research Based Science Education" (TLRBSE) which can be found at this site: http://www.noao.edu/education/arbse

Finally, we used data from the SLOAN Digital Sky Survey, as we interacted with their educational projects. These can be found at http://cas.sdss.org/dr7/en/ under the Science Projects menu bar.

What are some of the kinds of astronomical research- observational, investigational, or basic background research that others have done with middle school students?

Dorian Janney
Dorian Janney
10465 Activity Points

Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:45 PM

Dorian

What type of activities did you do for your 6th grade class? I am a 6th grade teacher
and I am curious as to what they liked doing the most in your Astronomy class.

LeRoy Attles
LeRoy Attles
56470 Activity Points

Wed Jan 12, 2011 6:08 PM

I don't do much in astronomy past Sun/Earth/Moon, but I really enjoy those.
My 6th graders in the Bronx were fascinated by the recent lunar eclipse (on the solstice). We watched a time-lapse film, did some reading on the orbits of the Earth and Moon, and many of the kids woke up in the middle of the night to see it themselves. Pretty cool.

I think my favorite thing about Sun/Earth/Moon is how you can tell the date and time, as well as the time of year, just from watching the moon and the sunrise and sunset. I love teaching the kids about that. Plus, I love teaching things that we can figure out just by taking our own data and making sense of it ourselves.

Last year, we had a Full Moon party after school in January (was it a blue moon? I think so). Being January, the moonrise was particularly impressive because it was dark so early, the moon was very bright and beautiful as it rose, so huge, above the cityscape. It was cold out on the school roof, but the kids got to see that the full moon rose when I said it would, where I said it would. I got some respect for that. Made me happy.

Allison

Ann Allison Cooke
Allison Cooke
6370 Activity Points

Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:20 PM

The following are some great Astronomy Resources

Lorrie Armfield
Lorrie Armfield
51413 Activity Points

Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:31 PM

Hey group,

Thank you so much for the awesome resources, I teach an independent study course for alternative HS students, and I am going to use some of these lessons. Bravo for all the great creativity!!

Thanks
Liz

Elizabeth Dalzell-Wagers
Elizabeth Dalzell
9935 Activity Points

Sun Jan 23, 2011 2:42 PM

"I developed and taught two elective courses that focused on Astronomy for 6th through 8th grade students."

Dorian, Due to the structure of our school, I would not be able to teach an elective course during the school day; however-I am considering an after school club (grades 6-8). Our district is very supportive in after school programs that add diverse and enriching activities that appeal to a wide range of students. Do you have any suggestions as to what you feel would be a good "jumping off" point to form this club? Sue Garcia

Sue Garcia
Sue Garcia
42660 Activity Points

Wed Jan 26, 2011 11:06 AM

Dorian, Due to the structure of our school, I would not be able to teach an elective course during the school day; however-I am considering an after school club (grades 6-8). Our district is very supportive in after school programs that add diverse and enriching activities that appeal to a wide range of students. Do you have any suggestions as to what you feel would be a good "jumping off" point to form this club? Sue Garcia

What a great question! I ran after school astronomy clubs in both middle and high schools for many years, and it is a fantastic way to engage and inspire students! It is also so much fun to get together with a group of students and not have to focus on a set curriculum. I was the co-I on an IDEAS grant that focused on developing after school astronomy clubs. Here is the url to go to the site that we created and actively maintain:

http://afterschoolastronomy.org/

This site really offers "one-stop shopping" as we have everything one would need to begin and run an after school astronomy club for any grade level students. I created a nine-session syllabus, complete with lessons plans, PowerPoints, hands-on activities, and letters to students and parents under the "Running a Club" menu- and then you go to "Syllabus"- here is the direct link:

http://afterschoolastronomy.org/runningaclub/syllabi.html

We also encourage clubs to join our network and interact and share ideas, and we have a nice group of both national and international clubs who participate.

Do let me know if there is anything else I might be able to help you with as you embark on starting an after school astronomy club!

Dorian Janney
Dorian Janney
10465 Activity Points

Wed Jan 26, 2011 11:06 AM

Dorian, Due to the structure of our school, I would not be able to teach an elective course during the school day; however-I am considering an after school club (grades 6-8). Our district is very supportive in after school programs that add diverse and enriching activities that appeal to a wide range of students. Do you have any suggestions as to what you feel would be a good "jumping off" point to form this club? Sue Garcia

What a great question! I ran after school astronomy clubs in both middle and high schools for many years, and it is a fantastic way to engage and inspire students! It is also so much fun to get together with a group of students and not have to focus on a set curriculum. I was the co-I on an IDEAS grant that focused on developing after school astronomy clubs. Here is the url to go to the site that we created and actively maintain:

http://afterschoolastronomy.org/

This site really offers "one-stop shopping" as we have everything one would need to begin and run an after school astronomy club for any grade level students. I created a nine-session syllabus, complete with lessons plans, PowerPoints, hands-on activities, and letters to students and parents under the "Running a Club" menu- and then you go to "Syllabus"- here is the direct link:

http://afterschoolastronomy.org/runningaclub/syllabi.html

We also encourage clubs to join our network and interact and share ideas, and we have a nice group of both national and international clubs who participate.

Do let me know if there is anything else I might be able to help you with as you embark on starting an after school astronomy club!

Dorian Janney
Dorian Janney
10465 Activity Points

Wed Jan 26, 2011 11:20 AM

Dorian, Due to the structure of our school, I would not be able to teach an elective course during the school day; however-I am considering an after school club (grades 6-8). Our district is very supportive in after school programs that add diverse and enriching activities that appeal to a wide range of students. Do you have any suggestions as to what you feel would be a good "jumping off" point to form this club? Sue Garcia

What a great question! I ran after school astronomy clubs in both middle and high schools for many years, and it is a fantastic way to engage and inspire students! It is also so much fun to get together with a group of students and not have to focus on a set curriculum. I was the co-I on an IDEAS grant that focused on developing after school astronomy clubs. Here is the url to go to the site that we created and actively maintain:

http://afterschoolastronomy.org/

This site really offers "one-stop shopping" as we have everything one would need to begin and run an after school astronomy club for any grade level students. I created a nine-session syllabus, complete with lessons plans, PowerPoints, hands-on activities, and letters to students and parents under the "Running a Club" menu- and then you go to "Syllabus"- here is the direct link:

http://afterschoolastronomy.org/runningaclub/syllabi.html

We also encourage clubs to join our network and interact and share ideas, and we have a nice group of both national and international clubs who participate.

Do let me know if there is anything else I might be able to help you with as you embark on starting an after school astronomy club!

Dorian Janney
Dorian Janney
10465 Activity Points

Wed Jan 26, 2011 11:34 AM

I had a middle school teacher who is starting an elective course in astronomy meet with me last week for some help in developing her curriculum. We discussed the background knowledge the students have and courses they have already taken that focus on astronomy-related content, as well as what the goals for this course were. She has eighth grade students who have already taken an introductory level astronomy course in the sixth grade. She wants her students to understand the scientific investigative model as well as to be able to understand some of the latest astronomical findings. In addition, she wants her students to be able to learn a lot of topics that they find fascinating in astronomy. So, here is wheat we came up with for this one semester course.

- History of Important Discoveries: Her students began their study of astronomy by looking at some important astronomers throughout history and focused on their lives and discoveries. We decided to pick four main topics: The Sun, The Moon, Our Solar System, and The Universe: and have students work on teams to find out the history of discoveries that have been made about these topics, and end with some current findings. By doing this, students will get a sense of what some key discoveries were that have been made as well as advancing technology over time that have allowed us to make the recent discoveries. While we don't anticipate that they will understand such things as "spectroscopy" and other tools that are currently being used, we feel it will whet their appetites for learning more about how current astronomers use sophisticated tools to understand these topics.

Next, the students will select a NASA mission- past/present/ or future (see previous post with information on how to do this and supporting documents) and do a mission project and presentation.

After students have become mission specialists and shared about these missions, they will spend some time using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which is a survey of millions of images of the sky taken in various wavelengths that astronomers use as they conduct their research. Students will go through guided inquiry as they complete the following educational activities:

Scavenger Hunt:http://cas.sdss.org/dr7/en/proj/basic/scavenger/

Solar System:http://skyserver.sdss.org/solarsystem/

Galaxies:http://cas.sdss.org/public/en/proj/basic/galaxies/

Finally, students will finish the course by spending a month working on "Space Weather Action Centers" which was developed by NASA and can be found at http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/swac/

Dorian Janney
Dorian Janney
10465 Activity Points

Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:52 PM

Dorian:
I joined several teachers in this county to create a pilot course in Astronomy for high school students several years ago. The materials are available through the Montgomery County Science Office... there are a lot of really good websites and activities.

Susan Phillips
Susan Phillips
2310 Activity Points

Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:25 PM


I joined several teachers in this county to create a pilot course in Astronomy for high school students several years ago. The materials are available through the Montgomery County Science Office... there are a lot of really good websites and activities.

This sounds like a really good suggestion to take advantage of existing materials that have been developed by experienced educators. Can you give us more information on how the general public might access these materials?

Thanks!

Dorian Janney
Dorian Janney
10465 Activity Points

Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:26 PM

Thanks for sharing the great resources!

Liz

Elizabeth Dalzell-Wagers
Elizabeth Dalzell
9935 Activity Points

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