AAS 195th Meeting, January 2000
Session 106. Education
Display, Saturday, January 15, 2000, 9:20am-4:00pm, Grand Hall

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[106.04] Establishing Astronomy in the Curriculum at a Teacher Preparation College: Some Successes and Some Challenges

L. M. French, D. Borkovitz ()

At Wheelock College, a liberal arts college in Boston which prepares students for careers in elementary and early childhood teaching and social work, we are developing science and mathematics courses designed to prepare our students for their work with children while teaching them adult-level math and science. Our students arrive with varying skill levels and, often, a great deal of math and science anxiety. We must address the anxiety in order for the students to make progress as learners and, eventually, teachers of math and science.

Two courses have been notable successes. A one-semester course entitled The Solar System has become a staple in the curriculum. Major topics covered include finding our way around the sky, the nature of light and color, the size and scale of the solar system, and the causes of the Earth’s seasons and the phases of the moon. Students report that it changes their minds about how science can be taught by modeling a style of teaching which is more interactive than the way they were taught. In the graduate school, astronomy is the focus for a course entitled Teaching and Learning. Co-taught by an education faculty member and an astronomer, the course immerses students in learning a new content area and asks them to consider their own learning process. Observations play an important role here, with students keeping journals of their own sky observations.

We also describe two challenges. One is the establishment of more advanced courses; although an astrophysics class has been offered twice to overwhelmingly positive student reviews, it is not easy to “sell”. The other challenge is the establishment of an introductory level course in stars and galaxies for non-science majors.

This work has been supported in part by a grant from the DUE of the National Science Foundation.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: linda@annie.wellesley.edu

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