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Good Astronomy Activities on the World Wide Web


Interdisciplinary Approaches to Astronomy

Cosmic Code:

Teaches younger kids about the use of binary numbers in science and technology, and then has them decode a message using a binary numbers code. [e]

A Flag for Mars:

Students discuss the symbolic meaning and history of flags on Earth, and then design a flag for planet Mars, discussing what such a flag might mean, and how has the right to "own" another planet like Mars. [m,h]

Moon Quest:

In this collaborative group activity, teams of students use the internet to find moon myths in a number of cultures and then try to discern the astronomy behind each myth. There is a section on researching moon missions that just seems tacked on to curry favor with NASA. [e,m]

A Timely Matter:

A brief calculation activity that helps students get a better feel for large numbers by calculating times of past events in hours instead of years. [e]

To Terraform or Not to Terraform:

Engages students in discussions, debates, writing projects, etc. focused on the ethics of "invading" Mars with Earth organisms or even people, especially given that Mars may at one time have developed life of its own. [m,h]

See also "Electromagnetic Radiation on Trial" in the Light and Color section, and "Mars Quest" in the Planets & Satellites: Specific Worlds section.

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Appendix: Some Activity Books That Can be Printed Out

These guides are typically in "pdf" format, which means they require Adobe's free Acrobat Reader software to print out. But this software is easy to download (each site has instructions and links on how to do it) and the books come out very nicely formatted. This is not an exhaustive list, but can introduce you to some of the types of materials that are available. Most of these were funded by NASA (and suffer a bit from "NASA chauvinism", where mostly NASA-related research and educational materials are thought worth mentioning.)

Cassini Mission Teacher Guide:

A field test version with good activities and background information about the Saturn system and the Cassini mission, which is scheduled to enter Saturn orbit in 2004.

Everyday Classroom Tools:

This excellent K-6 curriculum addresses very basic ideas about light, shadows, celestial motion, latitude and longitude, telling time, and the seasons. It was developed by astronomers and educators at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and uses hands-on inquiry-based activities.

Eyes on the Sky, Feet on the Ground:

From the same group as "Everyday Classroom Tools", this book features additional activities for kids on the Earth's motions, calendars, maps, planets, and the Moon. The activities are divided into groups by topic, and must be printed out a group at a time. A lot of thought and care has gone into this project.

Exploring Meteorite Mysteries:

Superb set of activities from NASA's Johnson Space Center, several of which are included in the ASP's More Universe at Your Fingertips.

Exploring the Moon Teacher's Guide:

Very good set of activities about the Moon and planetary geology.

Galileo Mission Activity Guide:

A booklet of 12 brief activities, including several scale activities, some physical modeling, and some calculations.

Mars Exploration Curriculum:

An extensive curriculum on missions to Mars, developed by TERC (an educational consulting firm) and Mars scientists at JPL. We have listed some of the activities from this curriculum separately in the Mars section, above.

Planetary Geology Teacher's Guide:

Good sets of activities and background information on the geology of planets and satellites and how we explore other worlds.

Solarscapes: Sunspots and Rotation:

Excellent short curriculum focusing on the Sun, with well-thought-out hands-on activities. (One of these is featured in the ASP's More Universe at Your Fingertips.)

Space Based Astronomy:

Intriguing activities and materials on space physics, and how we explore the environment between planets, for grades 5 up.

Think Small in a Big Way:

Comet related activities from the Stardust Mission (for grades 5-8).

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