| Lesson History
||Kalamazoo Area Math & Science Center
||Kalamazoo Valley Community College
||Franklin Middle School
||6th-8th Grade Astronomy
||Astronomy of the Inner Solar System
||8th Grade Science
||Summers 1996, 1997, 1999
||October 22, 2003
| Learning Objective
Students shall identify several features
of the night sky during the lesson, and be able to identify
at least one later.
| National Standard(s)
Describe and explain common observations of the
day and night skies. (Key concepts: Perceived
and actual movement of the moon across sky, moon
phases, stars and constellations, planets, Milky
Way, comet tail. Real-world contexts: Outdoor
observing of the skies, using telescopes and
binoculars, as well as "naked-eye" viewing; telescopic
and spacecraft-based photos of planets, moons,
and comets; news reports of planetary and lunar
| Driving Question
- What can be observed in the night sky?
- How do our observations of the night sky link us with civilizations thousands of years old?
| as Related
lesson is related to the first driving
question in that we are actually observing
what can be observed in the night sky.
- The constellations that we observe are similar (though not the
same!) as those observed by the Greeks
and Romans thousands of years ago.
(The stars are the same, but their
positions are not.)
| Instructor Preparation
Students should already have a basic
star chart from the star
charts lecture and
of their asterism from the Create-Your-Own-Asterism project.
- Photocopy blank star charts for the night of
observation from the Urban
site. You can adjust the deepest magnitude star
seen if you know what observing conditions are
going to be beforehand.
- Make extra Abram's Planetarium star charts because
some students will forget to bring their own.
| Materials Needed
||What is it?
|a flashlight with some red cloth/paper/or other material
over it so it's light won't kill your nightvision
|Monthly Star Chart
||a star chart of various stars (including their constellations)
which can be seen in the month in question
||you can get this from Abram's planetarium at MSU
|Blank Star Chart
||A star chart with the stars that will be visible on
the night you are observing from where you are observing
under current conditions. No constellations are on this
||I am creating a web
site where you can get this.
| Activity Time
hour is the minimum amount of time to allot to an
activity such as this one.
| Instructional Strategies
(Science Instruction pg. 244)
is a laboratory exercise.
| Instructional Sequence
- PSYCH UP CLASS: All during every lesson on
asterisms and star charts, I told students that
we would be going out on a star party to observe
these things. After the initial lessons, I reminded
them each day of when the star party would be.
This excited the students and those who came
were interested in seeing the stars.
- ARRIVE: Show up to the observing site a little
early. Make sure people who are bringing telescopes
are there and see if they need any help setting
- SEE STARS: Observe. Explain what can be seen
to the students. Students should record their
observations on their blank star chart.
I have found that students enjoy this activity.
As long as there are stars visible, they stay
pretty much on task, asking me questions where
- GO HOME: Make sure all students have been
picked up. Clean up the observing site. Leave
and get to bed as soon as possible--you will
be tired in the morning!
clearest nights are the coldest nights. Bring
a warm jacket. Tell students to bring warm clothing
CONTINUING ASSESSMENT: I am looking at levels of participation,
questions asked, and what they are showing to each other.
Why am I doing what I am doing?
- Objective -- As a first star party, I want to make
sure students think of this as a fun activity. They
will naturally be curious and that presents many learning
opportunities/teachable moments. I hope they will
identify several features of the night sky, including
the asterism they created.
Why is it important for students to do this? -- This
is the real world application for the asterism unit.
To have friends in the sky is something they will
carry with them throughout their lives.
- Sequence -- This is a very simple instructional
sequence. It is hard to plan more than that because
everything depends on what is available for viewing
on a given night. I can identify most things students
see and model inquiry when I can't identify something.
There is always something to view though. Even on
the cloudiest of nights, one can see city lights,
aircraft, clouds (which look different at night...more
as holes in the star field), and, of course, UFOs
(which the instructor can turn into IFOs (identified
flying objects) by indentifying them).
UFOs -- I make a point of pointing out to my students
that a UFO is simply something not yet identified.
I have found that this defuses the alien myths some
students have because now they can look at those pictures
and wonder for themselves "what is that"
and realize (hopefully) that not knowing is different
from knowing aliens. In the star party, there are
many opportunities for students to find a UFO (something
they don't know what it is) and to realize that it
is, say, an airplane.
- Assessment -- This is an introduction. I am, of
course, noting what they see and what they don't as
well as how adept they are with their star charts,
but most important is that they are out there, observing
the sky, and having a good time.
- As long as they are observing the sky, in my
experience they will also fulfill the instructional
- If they have a good time, they will come back
for more viewings and will learn more as a result.
Remember: Star Parties do not substract from instructional
time in the classroom. They only add to it!
- Students who did not go to the star party could
be assigned going to one at a friend's house.
- Parts & Whole -- This fits into the subunit
as a way to apply what they have learned in class.
It feeds back in as well as they become curious about
things that they have seen. In terms of within the
lesson, we are always doing the same thing--looking
at the sky--so the parts are the whole.
- Technique -- This is a lab exercise. It is a way
to increase students' curiosity about the things we
are studying in the classroom.
| How it Went/Lessons
It is difficult to get administrative approval for this
as it means they have to stay late. Try to coordinate with
other activities that last well into the night.