Class #3 was all about the sizes & scales in the universe and about the formation of the solar system.
These are actually some of my favourite topics in astronomy to talk about because most people find the numbers so staggering, mind-blowing, and VERY different than they thought (YAY for smashing misconceptions!).
The learning objectives were…
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
- Understand what modern astronomy teaches us about our place in the universe
- Describe the structure and history of the universe
- Compare other worlds in our Solar System to Earth
- Understand why there are different types of worlds
After doing our regular (twice is regular, right?) review of the 5 weakest quiz questions, we started by creating a 3D model of the Earth, Moon and Sun system. In short, my head was the Earth, the Moon is a baseball located about 15m from me, and the Sun is about 25m in diameter, 2.9km away.
These distances are already staggering, but we created a new model where the sun is the size of my head, and kept on moving to the other planets in our solar system and beyond. I used Google map images (provided by a previous instructor) to show where the other planets and nearest star would be, and then went from there. Finally, I showed this:
At that point, we talked briefly about dark matter/energy, and how we’re all made of star stuff…all leading to describing the Big Bang as a Cosmic Calendar:
After the break, I overviewed the general characteristics of the major types of solar system objects and the nebular theory of the formation of the solar system.
For participation, I had students fill out a Google form that had a question about light years and place for them to tell me what was the most surprising thing they learned.
In all honesty, I felt the class fell a bit flat. I talked too much and didn’t have enough participatory activity. So, I hope to inject more student involvement in the future.
Even with that, I was pleasantly surprised with their responses in the Google form! They were insightful, interesting, and fun to read. It’s such an honour being witness to the learning of so many intelligent and fascinating people!