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Session 5 - Education.
Display session, Monday, January 13
Metropolitan Ballroom,

[5.05] Discovery-based Homework Problems for Elementary Astronomy

D. Friend (U. Montana)

Most elementary astronomy textbook questions are geared toward memorization or looking up facts. I have found most of these questions unsatisfying, since I want my students to learn more than how to hunt for the right answers. For this reason I have created my own homework assignments which are of a more exploratory nature. These assignments challenge the students to discover some aspects of the universe on their own by thinking, observing, calculating, and drawing, as well as looking for facts in the textbook. Some examples of the problems I assign are: 1) observing the Sun, to see how it changes in position and time, 2) making scale models of the solar system and the milky way galaxy, 3) comparing features of telescopes to see which is the best buy, 4) calculating the densities of various solar system bodies to hypothesize their differing compositions, and 5) graphing the positions of the nearest stars and the brightest stars on the H-R diagram to learn about the properties of stars. I teach two large elementary astronomy courses at the University of Montana, each a semester in length. One is on historical and solar system astronomy and the other covers stellar and galactic astronomy. In each of these courses I assign 6 homework assignments, and I believe most of the students learn a lot from them that they would not learn otherwise. In my poster I will show all 12 assignments and have some copies available for interested astronomy teachers.

Program listing for Monday