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

Astronomy 210 In-class activity 1, fall 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 (www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/5604344/Untitled).

Originally uploaded by Waifer X

Wordle.net tag cloud for potentially confusing astronomy topics, generated by students on the first day of class (www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/5604364/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
zodiac, galaxies, voids, blackholes
constellations, solarsystems, galaxies, gravity
blackholes, darkmatter, aliens
zodiac, constellations, planets
blackholes, aliens, planets
stars, constellations, asteroids, meteors, meteorites, magneticfields
bigbang, stars, size
planets, constellations, lightyears
neutronstars, blackholes, stars
blackholes, galaxies, meteors
blackholes, StephenHawking, darkmatter, CarlSagan, neutrinos, Higgsboson
galaxies, starcharts, time
blackholes, asteroidbelt, darkmatter
universe, navigation, planets
stars, galaxies, lookbacktime, lightyears
orbits, meteorshowers, solareclipse
light, planets, unknown
solarsystem, solarflares, constellations
infinity, time, meteors, comets, darkenergy, darkmatter
constellations, tides, stargazing
galaxies, stars, aliens, blackholes
tides, MilkyWay, bigbang
blackholes, greenflash, constellations, northernlights, asteroids
blackholes, wormholes, universe, aliens

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

Student responses
Sections 70158, 70160
blackholes, planets, constellations
physics, timetravel, stringtheory
aliens, starcharts, blackholes
blackholes, physics, universe
solarsystem, orbits, physics
lightyears, math, blackholes, bigbang
physics, expansion, time
blackholes, size, gravity, orbit
size, aliens, physics
light, sun, stars, galaxies
physics, light, dwarfplanets, Pluto, CarlSagan
elementaryparticles, aliens, blackholes
bigbang, aliens, stars
lightyears, distances, space, time
light, size, relevance
blackholes, darkmatter, time, cycles, timezones, Pluto
solarflares, starcharts, planets
blackholes, solareclipse, constellations
stars, blackholes, distances, lightyears
blackholes, gravity, starcharts
size, bigbang, satellites, orbits, 2012
light, math, composition
blackholes, constellations, galaxies
universe, solareclipse, bigbang

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
"Will the sun explode soon?"

"How do astronomers map out galaxies that far away? How far is the Death Star from Earth? Do Wookies exist?"

"What is dark matter?"

"Will we learn about the Greek constellations or how do you feel about it?"

"How is astronomy applicable to my everyday life?"

"What is the big bang theory?"

"Where does the name 'P-dog' derive from?"

"Why do you like astronomy?"

"What is the difference between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission?"

"How should we prepare for tests?"

"Will we be discussion the Curiosity rover mission? Also it is interesting to note that both Mars rovers contain metal from the fallen World Trade Centers. "

"What makes the planets rotate in the solar system? When is the sun expected to die?"

"How is astronomy related to astrology?"

"Have you ever seen the movie 'Event Horizon?'"

"Are we going stargazing?"

"What makes a planet versus what makes a star?"

"Are we going to stargaze? Will we use the giant telescope? Why 'P-dog' and not 'P-dawg?'"

"Do our questions need to be astronomy related?"

"How do you measure the space between matter?"

"Do you believe in aliens?"

"Looking into the sky is like looking into the past."

"How did you get the name 'P-dog?' Why 'dog' instead of 'dog?' Conditions a green flash requires to happen."

"How far can our modern-day best telescope see into space?"
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