Connecting with the Night Sky: Activities for Spring

Of the many ways Earth is polluted, light pollution may be the least talked about. Defined as excessive or obtrusive artificial light, light pollution has consequences. It can wash out starlight in the night sky, interfere with astronomical research, disrupt ecosystems, have adverse health effects, and waste energy.

Take a moment to watch this short film that shows how the view of the cosmos gets better in less light-polluted areas.

I would also argue that light pollution causes many students to develop misconceptions. These misconceptions arise because we often fail to provide children with the time and opportunity to simply observe the night sky. After all, if you live in a metropolitan area, it does take some planning and a little driving to get out of the city.

How many young children today realize that during the course of a year, our view of the night sky changes from month to month? Some constellations are always in the sky, while others appear and disappear over different regions. How many children – or adults for that matter – can explain the rotation and revolution of our nearest celestial neighbor, our moon?

If you would like to learn more about common misconceptions in science, read my my five-part series.

image of a book laying open to show the constellations visible in March

The Night Sky Each Month

Early in our homeschool journey I read the works of Charlotte Mason. Her words, particularly in regards to the natural world resonated with me,  “We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” 

With her words in mind, I have always tried to provide my children with ample time in the outdoors and to develop their observational skills. I also love living books that guide them on their discoveries. One of my favorite for astronomy is The Night Sky Month by Month.  This book, written by Will Gater and Giles Sparrow, shows the sky as it is seen around the world in both the northern and southern hemispheres. It is the perfect guide for amateur astronomers – the illustrated pictures and monthly sky guides will help you recognize patterns and track changes in the each hemisphere.

Another great story that will delight younger readers is The Moon Over Star which puts the historic moon landing into historical perspective through the eyes of a child.

Astronomical Events for Spring 2019

Charlotte Mason and I would encourage you to get outside and observe the night sky year round. Encourage your child to begin documenting his or her observations by keeping a moon journal. Sketch the appearance of the moon each night and note the location it is visible in they sky. To get you started, here are a few key events this spring.

March Equinox ~ The March equinox occurs on March 20th whereupon the Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.

Worm Moon ~ This full moon phase occurs on March 21st and was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. This is also the last of three super moons for 2019. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation ~ The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 27.7 degrees from the Sun on April 11th. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

Fish Moon ~ The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated.  Early Native American tribes called this full moon the Full Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers. Many coastal tribes called it the Full Fish Moon because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

Lyrids Meteor Shower ~ The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

You might also be interested in my earlier post, Autumn Astronomy Activities for Middle School

Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower ~ The Eta Aquarids is capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak in the Southern Hemisphere and about 30 meteors per hour in the Northern Hemisphere. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Blue Moon ~ This full moon will appear on May 18th and was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. There are normally only three full moons in each season; a fourth full moon occurs only happens once every 2.7 years, giving rise to the term, “once in a blue moon.”

Nature Book Club

Welcome to the Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month. We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details.

The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.

Here are the co-hosts, their choices of books, and activities for February 2019:

Stargazing with Children by Thaleia at Something 2 Offer

The Rocket That Flew To Mars Online Book Club by Dachelle at Hide The Chocolate

Along Came Galileo Telescope Craft by Emily at TableLifeBlog

If You Decide to Go to the Moon Phases Activity by Karyn at Teach Beside Me

The Night Sky Events for Spring 2019 by Eva Varga at EvaVarga

Follow the Drinking Gourd Free Unit Study Resources by Jenny at Faith & Good Works

Party Rules

Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. These posts are removed.
By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts. That’s it.


Anticipating the 2017 Solar Eclipse: Activities & Lessons for Middle School

On August 21, 2017, Oregon will be the first to see the total eclipse of the Sun. This much anticipated solar eclipse will be visible across much of the United States. I first learned of this rare occurrence a year ago and quickly made plans to be sure we would be in the path.

Solar Eclipse 2017We purchased tickets to attend OMSI’s Eclipse Party at the Salem Fairgrounds and attempted to make hotel reservations in the area to no avail. We have thereby fallen back on a backup plan – staying with family in Eugene and driving up. I fear, however, that the road will be so congested we won’t reach our destination.

Anticipating the 2017 solar eclipse, I am delighted to share with you a number of lessons and activities with which you can engage your middle school students.

About the Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse is when the moon moves right in front of the sun, covering it completely for a very short time. It darkens the whole sky, lets you look right at the sun, and shows you the beautiful corona that surrounds the sun. Stars come out, the horizon glows with a 360-degree sunset, the temperature drops, and day turns into night.

Only look at the sun when it is 100% covered. You must use special solar viewing glasses whenever the sun isn’t completely eclipsed or it may cause irreparable eye damage.

The umbra (fully shaded inner region of a shadow) will hit the shores of Oregon at 10:15:53 am PDT near the small town of Otter Rock. From the time the shadow first touches land, it will take only two minutes for the shadow to race eastward. As the eclipse passes over the state, cities will experience various lengths of totality based on their varying distances from the centerline. At the Oregon State Fairgrounds, we will be treated to one minute and 53 seconds of shadow at just after 10:17am.

The eclipse will continue across the United States where Illinois will experience the longest eclipse duration at two minutes and 41 seconds. South Carolina will be the last state to witness the eclipse and the final shadow will be over the Atlantic Ocean near the west coast of Africa. See a map of the full eclipse path.

Solar Eclipse

Three Types of Eclipses

Solar eclipses occur during the new moon phase when the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun and the three celestial bodies form a straight line, Earth-Moon-Sun. There are three kinds of solar eclipses, Annular, Partial, and Total. On even more rare occasions, a hybrid eclipse occurs when there is a combination of two.

Annular Eclipse

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the Sun’s center, yet the moon’s shadow doesn’t quite reach the Earth. The Sun’s visible outer edges thus form a “ring of fire” or annulus around the Moon. The ring of fire marks the maximum stage of an annular solar eclipse.

We have been fortunate to observe an eclipse in the past. In 2012, we enjoyed an annular eclipse near Red Bluff, California.

Partial Eclipse

A partial eclipse, which are visible to a greater number of people due to its wider path, occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth, but they don’t align in a perfectly straight line and thus the Moon only partially covers the Sun’s disc. A Partial Eclipse can be seen on either side of the path of totality where the moon doesn’t completely cover the sun.

Total Eclipse

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and Earth and completely covers the face of the sun, letting the sun’s magnificent corona burst into view, and casts the darkest part of the shadow (the Umbra) on Earth. In this shadow, the Earth is almost as dark as night.

Check out the 2017 Solar Eclipse explainer video we created with mysimpleshow.

Hybrid Eclipse

A hybrid solar eclipse occurs when the eclipse changes from an annular eclipse to a total eclipse along the path of the moon as it rotates about the Earth.

Solar Eclipse 2017Bring it Home – Solar Eclipse Resources

◉ NASA’s Eclipse 2017 guide and information by NOAA Portland 2017 Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse for Beginners: General information on the science of a solar eclipse

◉ NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Eclipse Gallery: Scientifically accurate visualizations of solar eclipses including position of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, and path of the Moon’s shadow from different perspectives.

Shadow and Substance: A simulation for Oregon showing where totality and partial phases can be viewed.

NASA Eclipse Simulation: Students discover relative relationships between the Sun, Earth, and Moon, and how the Moon can eclipse the Sun.

NASA Wavelength: A full spectrum of NASA resources for Earth and space science education.

Explore the Earth’s geometrical relation to the sun by calculating where the sun will be in the sky for any date or time given a particular location on Earth.

Eclipse in a Different Light: A Sun-Earth Day page for educators presented by NASA.

◉ In 1715, Edmond Halley published a map predicting the time and path of a coming solar eclipse.

◉ If you are a Scout, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to earn the BSA 2017 Solar Eclipse patch.

  • Cub Scouts: Discuss what a solar eclipse is with your leaders.
  • Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts: Draw a diagram of the positions of the moon, earth, and sun to show how the solar eclipse occurs.
  • Venturers: Research Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s 1919 experiment and discuss how it confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Science with Harry Potter: Alchemy, Astronomy, & Divination (Geology)

Science with Harry Potter: Alchemy @EvaVarga.net Alchemy 

Alchemy is an elective taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry concerning the study of the four basic elements, as well as the study of the transmutation of substances. It is intimately connected with potion-making and chemistry but for purposes of clarity, this post will focus on transformation of rocks and minerals.

I’m particularly interested in Transfiguration, you know, turning something into something else, of course, it’s supposed to be very difficult.” —Hermione Granger regarding transformation

There are many myths and legends about the formation of the rocks of the Earth or about the rocks themselves. Every culture has its own beliefs about specific stones and those beliefs are often tied to that culture’s history, geography, and spiritual practices.

For this class students are required to become familiar with the many magical properties of common stones. Begin by writing the definitions for igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock in a notebook. Include a detailed sketch of the rock cycle.

Additionally, create a two-page spread for each stone studied. Include the following information for each:

  1. photo or sketch
  2. list any historical or literary references to the gemstone
  3. describe the process by which it is formed
  4. list its magical properties

Some stones to consider are:

  • Agate
  • Quartz
  • Ruby
  • Opal
  • Flint
  • Moonstone
  • Jade
  • Obsidian

Put together a collection of rocks and minerals. Identify and label each as igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary.

Take it Further

Learn to play Marbles, generally a Muggle game. Wizards play a variant known as Gobstones, where the enchanted marbles spit a putrid fluid into the face of the loser.

Science with Harry Potter: Potions @EvaVarga.net Astronomy & Divination

At Hogwart’s, Divination is an elective course that teaches methods of divining the future, or gathering insights into future events, through various rituals and tools. For the purposes of this course, we will focus on the ancient tools used by early navigators particularly in regards to the study of astronomy.

Generally out-of-bounds except for classes, the Astronomy Tower is the tallest tower at Hogwarts Castle. It is where students study the stars and planets through their telescopes with Professor Aurora Sinistra.

A Star chart is a written document used to represent the positions and movements of the stars, much like a map. Astronomers usually use these for research or study. An O.W.L. level wizard should be able of fill in a blank star chart based on some hours of sky gazing.

Similarly, a Moon chart is used to represent the position, movement and phases of the Moon. However, it is difficult to interpret and thus a Lunascope is often preferred.

Begin by researching the constellations common in your hemisphere and/or those referenced in the books.

Illustrate each cluster of stars in your notebook and make note of when the constellation was first discovered and how it was named. Include the names of the distinct stars (if possible).  Constellations to consider include:

  • Orion
  • Bartholomeus
  • Lupus
  • Leo
  • Ophiuchus
  • Canis Major
  • Scorpius

Create personal chart (also referred to as a birth chart) showing the relative positions of the planets at the time of an individual’s birth.

If possible, obtain a telescope with which you can observe the planets and distant stars.

Take it Further

Create a model of our solar system. Include the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and other major planets.

Make an illustrated wall timeline of geologic time.

Draw maps of the earth at various times in history, showing movements of the tectonic plates. Include time periods that show Pangaea, Laurasia and Gondwanaland, and the modern arrangement of continents.

Illustrate the layers of the atmosphere in a poster. Label and describe each layer.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany)

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Potions (Chemistry)

Alchemy & Divination (Geology) – this post

Magical Motion (Physics)

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler

Each month, I like to share a post celebrating the accomplishments of a scientist whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives. To honor the work of these amazing people, I provide a little peak into their life and share an unschool-style learning guides or unit study to guide you and your children on a path of discovery.

This month, I chose to honor the Johannes Kepler, who lived in an era when there was no clear distinction between astronomy and astrology. There was, however, a strong division between astronomy (a branch of mathematics within the liberal arts) and physics (a branch of natural philosophy).

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler @EvaVarga.netJohannes Kepler

In 1596, the German astronomer published his first important work on astronomy, Mysterium Cosmographicum (The Cosmographic Mystery). As well as defending the heliocentric model of the universe previously proposed by Copernicus in 1543.

Kepler explained the orbits of the known planets around the Sun in geometric terms in an attempt to unravel “God’s mysterious plan of the universe.” To do this, he dow upon the classical notion of the “harmony of the spheres” which he linked to the five Platonic solids – octahedron, icosahedron, dodecahedron, tetrahedron, and cube.

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler @EvaVarga.net

The Platonic solids, when inscribed in spheres and nested inside one another in order, correspond to the orbits of the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

In 1619, he published Harmonices Mundi (The Harmony of the World) wherein he stated his third law of planetary motion. He described the relationship between a planet’s distance from the Sun and the time taken to orbit around it as well as the speed of the planet at any time in that orbit.

Biography

Science Milestones: Johannes KeplerKepler was born in the small town of Weil der Stadt in the Swabia region of Germany and moved to nearby Leonberg with his parents in 1576. His father was a mercenary soldier and his mother, the daughter of an innkeeper. Johannes was their first child.

When Johannes was just five, his father left home for the last time and is believed to have died in the war in the Netherlands. As a child, Kepler lived with his mother in his grandfather’s inn. He tells us that he used to help by serving in the inn.

Kepler’s early education was in a local school and then at a nearby seminary. Intending to be ordained he went on to enroll at the University of Tübingen, a bastion of Lutheran orthodoxy.

Throughout his life, Kepler was a profoundly religious man. All his writings contain numerous references to God, and he saw his work as a fulfilment of his Christian duty to understand the works of God.

At Tübingen Kepler was taught astronomy by one of the leading astronomers of the day, Michael Mästlin. The curriculum was of course, geocentric astronomy, in which all seven planets – Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – moved around the Earth, their positions against the fixed stars being calculated by combining circular motions.

This system was more or less in accord with current Aristotelian notions of physics, though there were certain difficulties. However, it seems that on the whole astronomers were content to carry on calculating positions of planets and leave it to natural philosophers to worry about whether the mathematical models corresponded to physical mechanisms. Kepler did not take this attitude. His earliest published work, Mysterium Cosmographicum, proposed to consider the actual paths of the planets, not the circles used to construct them.

 “I am satisfied…to guard the gates of the temple in which Copernicus makes sacrifices at the high altar.” ~ Johannes Kepler

Kepler was one of the few pupils to whom Mästlin chose to teach more advanced astronomy by introducing them to the new, heliocentric cosmological system of Copernicus. Kepler seems to have accepted almost instantly that the Copernican system was physically true.

Soon after moving to Regensburg in 1630, he became seriously ill with fever and on November 15 he died.

Bring it Home

What are Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion? How were his ideas viewed by his contemporaries?

Learn more about star polyhedra, discovered by Kepler in 1619 and prominently featured in the architecture of European churches.

Build models of the five Platonic solids; consider The Finnish Craft of Himmeli or Paper Models of Polyhedra.

Research the epitaph inscribed on his gravestone (sadly swept away in the Thirty Years War):

I used to measure the heavens,
now I shall measure the shadows of the earth.
Although my soul was from heaven,
the shadow of my body lies here.

 

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of January? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in December to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.

Autumn Astronomy Activities for Middle School

Have you ever looked at the night sky and been amazed by all the stars? Though the nights are cool, I love stargazing in autumn. There are tremendous opportunities for night science activities throughout the fall months.

Misconceptions creep into the science of astronomy perhaps more than any other science. Would you believe that many college graduates have wildly incorrect ideas about the phases of the moon or the cause of the seasons?

You can help dispel these misconceptions by reading quality non-fiction materials and providing opportunities to engage in hands-on experiments or demonstrations designed to test hypotheses. With the help of DK Publishing, I’ve created an in-depth unit study around our autumn night skies utilizing two DK books as my spine. I hope to release the complete curriculum by years end.

Autumn Astronomy: Activities for Middle School @EvaVarga.netMany thanks to DK Publishing for providing these books to us for review. Please see my full Disclosure Policy for more details.

Most objects you can see in the night sky are within our own spiral, disc-shaped galaxy. Did you know that when you’re looking at the Milky Way, you’re looking into the heart of the galaxy from Earth’s position on the outer fringes of one of the spiral arms? The Milky Way is at least 100,000 light years across, and contains perhaps 200 billion stars. The milky band you see in the sky is a layer of dust, gas and stars that is closer to the “galactic center”. The dust is so thick, no one has seen beyond it to the dark side of the galaxy. There’s probably a humungous Black Hole at the heart of the Milky Way, but astronomers can’t be 100 percent sure. Turns out we know more about deep space objects than we do about the center of our own little spiral, disc-shaped galaxy.

The Practical Astronomer takes you on a step-by-step journey from the basics of what can be seen with the naked eye, to how you can view more distant objects such as the planets of the solar system, and even galaxies far, far away-all in your own backyard. It is the perfect spine for a homeschool astronomy study. It provides maps of the constellations and detailed information on the planets and stars of our own galaxy.

With this book as a guide, you will be able to find planets, identify stars, track movements, find constellations, and even begin star hopping from one constellation to another. The first part of the book explains the kinds of objects you will be looking for such as planets, stars, and nebulae. Additionally, with a spherical shape in mind, it details how to navigate around the night sky. The second part of the book provides practical information regarding telescopes and keeping a log of your observations.

During the course of the year, our view of the night sky changes from month to month. Some constellations are always in the sky, while others appear and disappear over different regions.  The Night Sky Month by Month by Will Gater and Giles Sparrow shows the sky as it is seen around the world in both the northern and southern hemispheres. It is the perfect guide for amateur astronomers – the illustrated pictures and monthly sky guides will help you recognize patterns and track changes in the each hemisphere.

Astronomical Events 2015

A brilliant double planet: October 26

For the second time in 2015, Venus and Jupiter will engage in a close conjunction, this time separated by just over 1 degree, Venus passing to the southwest (lower right) of Jupiter and shining more than 10 times brighter than the huge gas giant.

  • Full Moon, Supermoon: October 27

    The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 12:05 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon. This is also the last of three supermoons for 2015. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

  • Conjunction of Venus, Mars, and Jupiter: October 28

    A rare, 3-planet conjunction will be visible on the morning of October 28. The planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will all form a triangle in the early morning sky. Jupiter and Venus will be only one degree apart with Mars just a few degrees to the east. Look to the east just before sunrise for this spectacular event.

  • Taurid meteor shower ‘fireballs’: October & November

    The Taurid meteors, sometimes called the “Halloween fireballs,” show up each year between mid-October and mid-November. The shower should peak from Nov. 5 to Nov. 12 in 2015. Meteor expert David Asher has also discovered that Earth can periodically encounter swarms of larger particles, which can produce fireball meteors in certain years, and 2015 is predicted to be one of those years.

  • Geminid meteor shower: December 13-14

    If there is one meteor display guaranteed to put on a very entertaining show it is the Geminids. Considered by most meteor experts to be at the top of the list, surpassing in brilliance and reliability even the August Perseids. The moon will be a narrow crescent and will set early in the evening, leaving the sky dark all through the rest of the night – perfect conditions for watching shooting stars.

Autumn Astronomy: Activities for Middle School @EvaVarga.net

Expand Your Horizons

Hands-on activities encourage children to explore astronomy concepts in a way that is fun, yet meaningful, and to broaden their awareness of astronomy as they develop and apply new skills in other subject areas. Carefully selected demonstrations are one way of helping students overcome misconceptions, and there are a variety of resources available.

Check out the many activities and lesson plans provided by the University of Texas McDonald Observatory to get started.

Approximate the relative size of the earth and the moon with my free, Balloon Moon activity

Explore how misconceptions creep into the science of astronomy 

Take part in the Global Moon Project and learn how the moon and tides are interlinked

Gather with fellow astronomy enthusiasts for the Annular Lunar Eclipse, the Perseid Meteor Shower, or a Super Moon Viewing Party

Get to know the autumn night sky in the northern hemisphere with stargazing tips from BBC’s Sir Patrick Moore and his guests on The Sky at Night.

Focus your study around the contributions of Women in Space 

Misconceptions in Astronomy

In a series of posts this week, I will be sharing 5 Misconceptions in Science and providing lessons and activities to help dispel these conceptual misunderstandings. Today’s post focuses on common misconceptions in astronomy.

Misconceptions in Astronomy @EvaVarga.netMisconceptions in Astronomy

Misconceptions creep into the science of astronomy perhaps more than any other science. Surveys have found that even college graduates carry persistent misconceptions or even wildly incorrect ideas about the phases of the moon or the cause of the seasons.

Considering the following statements, which are true? Which are false?

 

1) The sky is blue because it reflects the blue color of the oceans.
2) The seasons are caused by the Earth’s distance from the sun.
3) The Moon’s phases are due to the shadow of the Earth falling on the Moon.
4) The bright glow of a meteor is not caused by friction as it passes through the Earth’s atmosphere.
5) There are no stars seen in Apollo Moon-landing pictures thus proving that these landings were staged.
6) The Hubble Space Telescope is bigger than all Earth-based telescopes.
7) Stars in the night sky do have color.
8) The Moon is bigger near the horizon than when it’s overhead.
9) In the southern hemisphere, winters are much warmer than those in the northern hemisphere.
10) X-rays are emitted from the eclipsed sun but these X-rays do not damage your eyes if you look at the eclipsed sun.

How to Dispel Misconceptions

To help foster the replacement of misconceptions with new concepts, students should be encouraged to ask questions. Additionally, they should be given ample opportunity to engage in hands-on experiments or demonstrations designed to test hypotheses.

Carefully selected demonstrations are one way of helping students overcome misconceptions, and there are a variety of resources available. Let’s take the second statement above and explore how we can dispel this common misunderstanding.

MISCONCEPTION #2

The seasons are caused by the Earth’s distance from the sun.

Studies have shown that as many as 95% of people— including most college graduates—incorrectly believe that the seasons result from the Earth moving closer to or farther from the Sun. In reality, the answer lies in the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis away or toward the Sun as the Earth travels through its year-long orbit. Distance plays no role since the Earth actually is closest to the Sun during the first week of January.

This video embedded below uses a globe and a strip of thermochromic paper to show how the axial tilt of the Earth as it orbits the sun produces the changing season. This is an excellent hands-on activity in which to engage your students to dispel this commonly held misconception.

To further investigate this common misconception in astronomy, check out National Geographic’s lesson The Reason for the Seasons.

Using demonstrations is a great tool to help dispel misconceptions. Be careful, however, to choose models and demonstrations that do do not mislead or strengthen other misconceptions. A popular model of the solar system that shows the relative distances of the planets from the sun, shows the planets all rotating around the sun on the same plane rather than on independent three-dimensional paths.

5 Misconceptions in Science & How to Dispel Them @EvaVarga.net

Misconceptions in Science & How to Dispel Them (series introduction)

Misconceptions in Geology & Meteorology (coming Wednesday)

Misconceptions in Chemistry & Physics (coming Thursday)

Misconceptions in Biology (coming Friday)

You might also be interested in my 5 day series,  Discovering Peru, where you’ll have the chance to win a travel guide of choice from DK Publishing.

My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing.

Hopcotch2015Statements 4, 7, and 10 are true.  Statements 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9 are false.