Astronomy in-class activity: first-day student expectations, questions

Astronomy 210 In-class activity 1, fall semester 2011
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Originally uploaded by Waifer X

Wordle.net tag cloud for potentially interesting astronomy topics, generated by students on the first day of class (http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/3935554/Untitled).

Originally uploaded by Waifer X

Wordle.net tag cloud for potentially confusing astronomy topics, generated by students on the first day of class (http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/3935563/Untitled).

On the first day of class, students find their assigned groups of three to four students, and work cooperatively on an in-class activity worksheet to discuss concepts that will potentially be interesting or confusing to them later in the semester. Students are also encouraged to write down a comment or a question for the instructor to go over during the whole-class discussion, after the in-class activity worksheets are turned in.

[Responses have been edited to consolidate common related subjects.]

Discuss in your group astronomy-related concepts you expect to be interesting or confusing later in this course. Use one word or short phrases (e.g., "Pluto," "black holes," "beginning of time") for each concept.

List at least three astronomy-related concepts you expect to be interesting.

Student responses
Sections 70158, 70160
blackholes, quasars, bigbang
blackholes, constellations, beginningoftime
planets, life, blackholes, bigbang
Pluto, blackholes, stars
blackholes, wormholes, MilkyWay
astrology, stars, life
blackholes, planet, atmospheres, magneticfields
bigbang, moon, tides, moonphases, blackholes
beginningoftime, blackholes, laboratory, constellations, zodiac
blackholes, starformation, comets
seasons, blackholes, moonphases
blackholes, constellations, planets
lightyears, darkmatter, blackholes
constellations, Pluto, beyondsolarsystem
blackholes, ETlife, gravity
galaxies, tidallocking
planets, astrology, satellites
constellations, LittleDipper, BigDipper, planets, life, colonizingMars
moonphases, tides, Pluto
shootingstars, galaxies, blackholes, astrology
constellations, relativity
constellations, blackholes, ETlife
lightspeedtravel, universe, wormholes
blackholes, quasars, darkmatter

List at least three astronomy-related concepts you expect to be confusing.

Student responses
Sections 70158, 70160
spacetime blackholes quasars
stars, spacetime, constellations
blackholes, universe, gravity
measurements, speedoflight, planets
blackholes speedoflight, unseenstars
planets, elements, constellations, speedoflight
Pluto, stars, masses, laboratory
bigbang, atmospheres, gravity
Pluto, lightyears, starwheels
motion, distances, discovery
rotation, lightyears, elements, sun, spacetravel
darkmatter, bigbang, galaxies
moonphases, lightyears, seasons
darkmatter, moonphases, seasons
Moonleaving? moonriselocations, stars
distances, math, measurements
blackholes, physics, gravity
seasons, UVexposure, constellations
physics, chemistry, lightyears, spacetime
wormholes, lightspeed
sunspots, math, light
bigbang, orbits, trajectories, telescopes, data
constellations, starformation, energy, distances

Each week after class you will receive credit for asking a question, or making a comment that the instructor might respond to at the start of the following class (while your identity is kept anonymous). Ask at least one question, or make a comment that you would like the instructor to respond to at the end of this in-class activity.

Student responses
Sections 70158, 70160
"How in depth are we going to study intergalactic space?"

"Where did 'P-dog' come from?"

"How many planets are thought to have possible water and capable of sustaining life?"

"Is Pluto a planet?"

"How did you come up with the name 'P-dog?'"

"If there will be any math?"

"How does astronomy help us in everyday life?"

"What do you, as an astronomy teacher, find interesting about astronomy?"

"Why are we represented by pandas, bunnies, etc.?"

"Is it possible to move faster than the speed of light? Is there direction in space?"

"Why do we have seasons?"

"Is the course of astronomy focused mostly on stars?"

"Favorite topic to teach?"

"What is the most likely devastating death to Earth?"

"What's your most embarrassing moment whilst teaching class?"

"Home come Pluto is no longer a planet?"

"How much longer till there's a hotel on the moon?"

"What airline is going to start doing space trips and how much would it cost to go?"

"What is your favorite planet and why?"

"Will your son's name be, or is, 'Lil' P-dog?'"

"What was so traumatic about high school?"

"How much of space have we explored, via satellites?"

"Where do we have rovers/probes/spacecraft/satellites currently headed?"
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