(Measuring the Universe)

Course Outline

Subject Areas: Earth Science, Physical Science, Mathematics, English


A. The Earth in Space

1. How do we measure altitude?

2. How can we measure the sun's altitude?

3. How can we tell time by the sun?

4. How do we determine azimuth?

5. How do we measure latitude?

6. How does latitude affect the seasons?

7. What is a GPS? How does it work?

B. Ancient Myths and Astronomy

1. How did ancient people view and interpret the sky?

2. What are constellations?

3. What is the zodiac?

4. How are astronomy and astrology different?

5. How can we test the accuracy of astrological predictions?

C. Earth and Moon

1. How can we measure the size of the Earth?

2. What causes day and night?

3. Why does the Moon have phases?

4. What is gravity? 5. What causes tides?

6. How did we get to the Moon?

7. What is on the Moon?

8. What causes eclipses?

D. The Sun

1. What is the Sun?

2. How can we measure the Sun's size?

3. How does the Sun interact with Earth?

4. How does the Sun change?

5. What is the aurora?

6. How does the Sun produce energy?

7. What is the Sun's past and future?

E. The Solar System

1. What is the solar system?

2. How did the solar system evolve?

3. What is the Geocentric Theory?

4. What is the Heliocentric Theory?

5. What did Kepler discover?

6. What is a telescope?

7. What did Galileo discover with his telescope?

8. What are the inner planets?

9. What recent news do we have from Mars?

10. What are comets, asteroids and meteors?

11. Do astronomical objects strike the Earth?


F. Stars

  1. What are stars?
  2. How do we measure a star's distance?
  3. What is magnitude?
  4. Why do stars have different colors?
  5. How do we use a spectroscope?
  6. How do we interpret star types?
  7. What are multiple star systems?
  8. How do we know extra solar stars have planets?
  9. How do stars die?
  10. What are novae and supernovae?
  11. What are black holes?

F. Galaxies

  1. What is the Milky Way?
  2. What are galaxies?
  3. How do galaxies move?
  4. What is redshift?
  5. How did the universe begin? How will it end?

G. Life in the Universe

  1. What is life?
  2. Is there evidence for extraterrestrial life?
  3. How can we search for intelligent life beyond Earth?
  4. Have aliens visited Earth?

Skills and Activities:

Students will be required to :

1. read and summarize appropriate texts and articles.

2. learn and use new vocabulary terms

3. build and use basic astronomical instruments

4. make accurate measurements in angles, distance, direction and time

5. draw in proper perspective, making diagrams, posters and three dimensional models

6. calculate by using simple formulae

7. take clear and succinct notes

8. use logic and evidence to verbally support a point of view

9. differentiate between fact and opinion, both orally and in writing

10. use data to construct graphs

  1. write clear and grammatically correct reports


Grades will be based on:

1. taking clear and accurate notes

2. writing reports

3. taking periodic quizzes and tests

4. handing in complete, accurate, homework assignments on a regular basis

5. demonstrate understanding of scientific and technological concepts in class discussion, reports, tests, etc.

6. taking responsibilty for making contributions to group work

7. asking clearly stated, approprate questions

8. delivering oral reports with clarity, coherence and effective voice projection

9. meeting deadlines

10. ability to follow instructions

11. obeying school policy and classroom norms

12. behaving respectfully to others when working in groups

13. good attendance and puctuality

14. handing in worksheets at the end of each class


Instructional Strategies:

Each unit of study (see topics above) will be addressed through a number of strategies, including:

1. student production of working models that demonstrate the principles of astronomy, e.g. an astrolabe that measures altitude, constructed from cardboard, string and metal weights.

2. cooperative learning, for model-making, research reports, and demonstrations

3. computer assisted instruction using the astronomical program REDSHIFT and other appropriate software

4. viewing and writing summaries of videos, e.g. Carl Sagan's "Cosmos."

5.. writing essays, both factual and speculative, e.g. "What are the physical features of the plant Neptune;" "Is there extraterrestrial life?;"

6. discussing current events and technological developments in astronomy as reported in the popular and scientific press, both in class and in writing

7. possible field trips( Museum of Science) and evening outdoor observation sessions of brighter stars and planets.


Archeoastronomy: Museum of Northern Arizona

Astronomical Society of the Pacific: The Universe at Your Fingertips

(An Astronomy Actvity and Resource Notebook)

Berman: Secrets of the Night Sky

Crosswell: Alchemy of the Heavens

Crosswell: Planet Quest

Davies: Are We Alone?

Desonie: Cosmic Collisions

Eames and Morrison: Powers of ten (book & video)

Fraknoi: Voyages through the Universe

Haddingham: Early man and the Cosmos

Hamberg: Astronomy Made Simple

Hathaway: A Friendly Guide to the Universe

Hoehn: Earth Science Curriculum Activities Kit

Kolb: Blind Watchers of the Sky

Lippincott: Astronomy (Eyewitness Science)

Malin: A View of the Universe

Moeschl: Exploring the Sky

Morrison: Exploring Planetary Worlds

Motz& Weaver: The Story of Astronomy

Naeye: Through the Eyes of Hubble(the Birth,Life, and Violent Death of Stars)

Pannekoek: A History of Astronomy

Pentice Hall Science: Exploring the Universe (class text)

" " " " " " (lab manual)

" " " " " " " (activity book)

Project Star: Harvard Smithsonian

Raymo: The Soul of the Night

" " " : 365 Starry Nights

Reddy: Celestial Delights: The Best Astronomical Events through 2001

Ronan: The Natural History of the Universe

" " " : The Universe Explained

Rosen: Earth Science Workshop 3: Understanding Space

Savage: Aurora

Schaaf: Wonders of the Sky

Silk: A Short History of the Universe

Scott Foresman: Earth Science

Tyson: Universe Down to Earth

Usborne Guide: The Young Asronomer

Usborne: UFO's

Zeilik: Conceptual Astronomy

Zeilik: Astronomy: The Evolving Universe


Sagan-Cosmos, Nightline- Mission to Jupiter, Life on Europa, NOVA- Doomsday Asteroid,

Death of a Star, Eclipse of the Century, Planet Earth-The Solar Sea, 20/20-Roswell Alien,

Powers of Ten, The Renaissance- The Scientists,PBS-Mysteries of Deep Space



cardboard, scissors, glue, color pencils and markers, diffraction gratings, C5 Celestron telescope for classroom demonstrations and observations. Other common household materials will be used when the situation warrents for a particular experiment.