Active/Cooperative Learning Activities for Introductory Astronomy

  1. TA Assisted Projects
    1. Telescope Observing Projects
    2. Planetarium Project
    3. Spectroscopy Project
    4. Computer Projects
  2. Self-Guided Semester Projects
    1. The Altitude of the Sun
    2. The position of Sunrise/Sunset
    3. The Motion of Stars/Light Pollution
    4. The Magnitudes of Stars
    5. The Phases of the Moon
    6. The Wandering Planets
    7. The Seven Wonders of the Solar System
  3. In-class activities
    1. Thought Questions
    2. Concept Papers
    3. Lecture Tutorials - See Prentice Hall Catalog for more by Adams et al.
    4. Formal Group Activities
    5. Informal Group Activities

  1. TA Assisted Projects
  2. Throughout the course of the semester, TAs may be assigned various responsibilities regarding A/CL activities in Astro 1. Their primary responsibility will be to assist students in completing various A/CL projects, answering questions as necessary and guiding them in their understanding of the various projects. The TA may or may not be the one assigned to grade the projects (another TA may handle the project grading). The projects which fall under this category are:

    1. Telescope Observing Projects - students may be required to attend at least one rooftop observing session on the rooftop of Davey Lab. The available days of the week will be based on the anticipated number of students. A TA will be in attendance throughout the night in order to set up the telescopes and answer questions. In order to minimize congestion on the rooftop, students will be required to attend the rooftop sessions during a designated period of time, based on their last a name. Students will complete an assignment which is to be turned in to the TA before leaving, the assignment may vary, depending on which astronomical objects are available for viewing. Examples of the various assignments are listed below:
    2. One alternative to the night time observing project is the day time solar observing project. If a significant number of students are unable to attend the night time observing, it is possible to assign a TA to assist students with observations of the Sun, with the use of a sunspotter. An example assignment can be found below:

    3. Planetarium Project - As a substitute for the telescope observing project (in case of cloudy nights), or in addition to it, the students may be asked to attend a planetarium show and complete an assignment before leaving. The planetarium show will be 30 minutes in duration, and based on the number of students in attendance, either 1 or 2 shows will be held on a given night (the number of nights per week will be decided based on the total anticipated number of students). In order to evenly distribute the number of students in attendance on any given night, students will be required to attend during a given period, based on their last a name. An example of the planetarium project can be found below:
    4. Spectroscopy Project - Students may be required to attend one night during a two to three week period to complete a spectroscopy project. Students are first instructed by a TA on the use of a spectrometer and are given a sheet containing spectra for four unknown gases. They then have to use the spectrometer to identify the gases correctly, using equipment set up in the lab. Students are then instructed to go downtown to observe a number of lights and answer questions based on their observations. An example of the spectroscopy project can be found below:
    5. Computer Projects - Students may be required to attend at least one computer lab session during the course of the semester in one of the Universities computer lab rooms. A TA will be on hand to give each student an overview of the computer lab and help answer any questions. The students will be encouraged to work in pairs, and will have a maximum of two hours to complete the lab, which will be turned in to the TA before leaving. In the event that a large number of students show up on a given night, students will only be allowed to complete the assignment during a specified period, based on their last a name. The computer labs which are currently available are:

  3. Self-Guided Semester Projects
  4. A number of projects may also be assigned to students which they will be asked to complete on their own, or in pairs or groups. While a TA will not be specifically assigned to assist students with these projects, the class assigned TA associated with each section may devote some office hours to assisting students. A separate TA will be assigned to handle the grading of semester projects for all sections of Astro 1. A list of semester projects is listed below:

    1. The Altitude of the Sun - students use basic geometry to measure the altitude of the Sun around noon throughout the semester and then plot their data to see how it changes over time.
    2. The position of Sunrise/Sunset - students mark the position of sunrise or sunset relative to foreground objects throughout the semester in an effort to see how the position of sunrise/sunset changes over time.
    3. The Motion of Stars/Light Pollution - students measure the change in altitude of stars over time and compare the motion with the rotation of the Earth, as well as observe a prominent constellation and note how many stars in the constellation they can observe.
    4. The Magnitudes of Stars - students are given the magnitudes of a number of stars and are asked to estimate the magnitudes of other stars.
    5. The Phases of the Moon - students observe the Moon throughout the semester and note how the appearance of the Moon changes over time.
    6. The Wandering Planets - students observe a number of planets over the course of a semester and note how it moves relative to the stars.
    7. The Seven Wonders of the Solar System - students work in groups researching various solar system locations in an effort to come up with their list of the top seven wonders of the solar system.