AAS 197, January 2001
Session 87. Innovations in Teaching Astronomy II
Joint Display, Wednesday, January 10, 2001, 9:30am-7:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[87.14] Some Astronomy 101 Activities Using Internet Resources

M.L. West (Montclair State University)

Reputable Internet sites provide a wealth of visual, textual, and numerical data for student activities, as well as some fun simulations. Three activities will be described which have been used in Astronomy 101 classes for non-science students.

An exercise in model making and problem solving uses the Astronomy Workshop (janus.astro.umd.edu/astro/impact.html) of the University of Maryland. This site provides a quick simulation of an impact with a planet. One can choose the target, the projectile composition (icy, rocky, or iron), the projectile's diameter, and the projectile's speed. The output provides the energy of impact, the earthquake magnitude, the crater's diameter and depth, and the frequency of such impacts. Students run simulations, pool their data, then collaborate to try to figure out the numerical model behind the simulations. They make predictions, test them, and learn that graphing and physical insight are both important tools.

Extrasolar planets are now numerous and fascinating. Students use data from Geoff Marcy's group (www.exoplanets.org) to calculate the masses of the planets using a spreadsheet. They discover that the masses of the stars must depend on spectral type. Correlations among parameters are investigated graphically.

As a preparation for writing term papers students review and critique selected sites (csam.montclair.edu/~west/ideasresources.html, ~west/astrolnk.html), discuss them in small groups, then present the "best" sites to the whole class. Teamwork, evaluation, critical thinking, and public speaking skills are emphasized in this class session.

The students find these collaborative activities to be exciting, challenging, and enjoyable as well as increasing their science literacy and problem solving skills.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://www.csam.montclair.edu/~west. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: west@pegasus.montclair.edu

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