Archaeoastronomy and Science Education

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Session 2 -- History in Astronomy Education I
Oral presentation, Sunday, 8, 1995, 2:00pm

[2.02] Archaeoastronomy and Science Education

David S P Dearborn (LLNL)

Acquisition and utilization of knowledge can be a determinate for survival and prosperity. As a process for exploring nature, science has enabled people with

the tremendous capabilities of modern technology, but many students fail to see

the connection between their lives and this process. Even those students that do appreciate a connection, frequently leave high school or non-major college classes, confusing the scientific process itself with a catalog of abstract facts.

Archaeoastronomy provides a vehicle to teach both scientific methodology, and the range of human reason for the pursuit of science. As a study of the interaction between societies and their science, it may included the development of mathematics, navigation, surveying, units of measurement, and urban planning. Astronomy serves as a focus across many cultures, because the need to respond to the seasons is biologically based, and these seasons are driven and defined by celestial motions. This connection between sky and earth exists for all people, and sophisticated sky watching activities developed on every inhabited continent.

At the foundation of archaeoastronomy studies are the mechanics of astronomical observation, methods for organizing those observations, and making interpretations. The celestial phenomena of interest are readily available and easily observable. This permits a discovery basis for teaching how the scientific method developed and how is used.

A course in archaeoastronomy permits students of wide disciplinary and cultural backgrounds to appreciate the interrelation between science and society. Additionally, students that will not pursue scientific research, who will instead become leaders in other areas, will be enriched with an understanding of how the process operates whether watching for the first appearance of the new moon, or attempting to detect the top quark.

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