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

Astronomy 210 In-class activity 1, spring semester 2012
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/4706918/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 30674, 30676
exoplanets, sun, light
blackholes, planetatmospheres, constellations
bigbang, life, light
moons, galaxies, constellations, blackholes, life
constellations, blackholes, supernovae
time, rotations
bigbang, astrology, galaxies
light, blackholes, cosmology
planets, constellations, lightyear
blackholes, bigbang, supernovae
light, galaxies, water
names, blackholes, bigbang
constellations, quarks, tides, blackholes
universe, blackholes, stars
aliens, blackholes, stars, solarflares, northernlights, asteroidimpacts
stars, aliens, blackholes, darkmatter
planets, Mars, atmospheres
Pluto, aliens, galaxies, light
planets, exploration, timetravel, stardeath
universe, sun, Pluto
supernovae, gravity, solarflares, eclipses, meteorshowers
blackholes, aliens, constellations
blackholes, galaxies, darkmatter, lightyear
constellations, blackholes, bigbang, gravity
universe, bigbang, time
blackholes, bigbang, solarflares

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

Student responses
Sections 30674, 30676
blackholes, constellations, bigbang
time, distances, blackholes
bigbang, universe, gravity
blackholes, bigbang, universe
darkmatter, galaxies, blackholes
light, bigbang, starformation
constellations, blackholes, rings
planets, everything, starformation, stardeath
galaxies, names
blackholes, blackholes, bigbang
bigbang, constellations, space
elements, constellations, space, time, light
distances, eclipses, blackholes
galaxies, math, atmosphere
physics, orbits, math
time, cosmology, space, bigbang, knowledge
physics, blackholes, light
names, physics, galaxies
bigbang, spacetime, moonphases
planets, planets, planets
planets, solarflares, blackholes, darkmatter, asteroids
universe, blackholes, moonphases
math, universe, cosmology
space-time, matter, constellations
lightyear, gravity
planets, physics, galaxies

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 30674, 30676
"What do you think is the most exciting thing to learn in astronomy?"

"What tools are used to measure the distance of the known universe?"

"We've landed on the moon, we've sent telescopes deep into outer space--what do you think technology will let us or allow us to do next?"

"How many dimensions are there?"

"What makes stars go supernova?"

"How did the beginning of time happen?"

"What's your favorite planet, P-dog?"

"Why does a star combust after the gas is gone?"

"Recent study found a planet that could hold life?"

"What is your favorite constellation, and why?"

"What's most interesting to you in astronomy?"

"Currently, what is the general consensus in the science community on there being life on another planet in the universe?"

"Can we, should we, be concerned about space debris?"

"How often are we threatened by a comet or asteroid or other large astronomical disaster?"

"Am I going to need a tutor?"

"How did you become an astronomy teacher, and hired to do it, without actually taking an astronomy course?"

"What is the ring around Saturn made of?"

"What's responsible for creating the northern lights?"

"How would we know what a star in the sky is? It could be a solar system, or even a galaxy, right?"

"If a star is brighter, does that mean it could be closer, bigger, either of those?"

"What is Nibiru/Planet X?"

"What is the 2012 scare all about and the reason for it?"

"Do you believe in extraterrestrials?"

"How have you been known as 'P-dog?'"

"How do asteroid belts maintain structure and orbits?"

"What's the deal with Pluto?"

"Do you believe in aliens? Or life on other planets?"

"Do you believe in extraterrestrials?"

"What is your favorite planet, and why?"

"How do we know the universe is 5 billion light years?"
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