November/December 2002 Table of Contents
of Louis A. Mayo
Louis A. Mayo
a school astronomy club is a way to improve science literacy, and
it's a lot of fun to boot.
attention is paid to astronomy in our schools. Most school districts
do not require astronomy to be taught in any form through 12th grade.
Some bury it within "Earth sciences." Even fewer teach
it as a separate course. In addition, the teachers who are called
upon to teach astronomy often have no training whatsoever in this
an astronomer interested in education, I frequently give astronomy
presentations in schools, at community nights, and at star parties.
Not long ago, I was asked by a junior high school science teacher
to speak in his classroom about "cosmetology" and the
expansion of the solar system! Another time, I was contacted by
a teacher who had heard that I was an astrologer. The general public
holds many other misunderstandings and myths about the nature of
the universe. A few that I have encountered are:
North Star is the brightest star in the sky
We have sent people to other planets
Jupiter has a solid surface
The Sun burns - just like the wood in your fireplace
The Moon is farther from Earth than the planets
The Sun goes around the Earth
We have seasons because Earth ventures closer to and farther from
the Sun in its orbit
Aliens have landed on the Earth and NASA is hiding the evidence.
problem becomes even more intractable when we realize that teachers
have little time to develop and serve curriculum modules that are
not mandated by state standards or state aptitude tests. And usually,
to do something about this, at least in my childrens' school, I
started an after-school astronomy club. A club offers a realistic
strategy for infusing astronomy into the educational experience
of children, their families, and, to some extent, their teachers
as well. It can also be a lot of fun and very fulfilling as long
as you make adequate preparations and follow a few guidelines.
Astronomy Club sidebars