Astronomy Week #7

This week saw the changing of the content gears from background info to the planetary science side of things.

We first started with a Kahoot review of the  5 worst questions on the midterm, and I did a quick review of the “muddiest points” of the week 6 material: RNA and Panspermia.

Learning Outcomes for Week 7:

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to describe the following to a general audience:

  • What is the evidence for life we look for on other bodies?
  • The prospects for life on the other bodies in our Solar System
  • How we are exploring the bodies in our Solar System

I started off with a lecture component on what is it that we are looking for that would give evidence we’re looking at life: source of organic molecules, source of energy, and some kind of liquid (preferably water). Then we discussed the advantages of water over other liquids, giving reasons WHY we look for water specifically.

I then attempted another jigsaw activity. If you remember, I tried this back in Week 2 and it didn’t go so well. This time, the students learned about (& taught each other) the possibilities of life on bodies in our Solar System.

I did things a bit differently and it went much smoother. First, they chose a group of 5 students, then decided as a group who would learn about which topic. Once they learned independently, they had time to share what they learned with their group members. As a consolidation, they had to answer a question as a group: What solar system do you believe is the BEST choice to look for possible life? They had to justify their answer. I also had them fill in a Google Doc chart with columns for “what supports life?” “what doesn’t support life?” “where might life occur?” “and what would life look like?”.

Even though this went better, the students did not seem enthusiastic at all about the activity, and I received many comments on my mid-semester feedback (will post about this later) to stop doing these activities. From their point of view, I do get it: it’s out of the ordinary and it’s not me filling them with knowledge (“my job” according to some). I do agree that it would work better with smaller groups, so either some serious re-thinking (or completely scrapping) is necessary. Something to consider seriously for next time.

After this portion of the class, I ended with a lecture portion about the different types of space missions: landers, probes, fly-bys and orbiters. We talked about some cool examples of all of them like MSL, Cassini, New Horizons, and Rosetta.

The discussion on the online forums this week was “What is your favourite movie that involves aliens? Do you think the types of life-forms in that movie are realistic in light of what you learned this week? Why or why not?” It’s been a lot of fun to read!

Next week – everything MARS!



This entry was posted in assessment, astronomy, re-thinking, Reflection, teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Astronomy Week #7

  1. Zach Coverstone says:

    Thanks for your comment. I really empathize with your frustration about lack of desire on the student’s part to learn with effort. Whatever you do, don’t give up. (And I need the same reminder.) Keep on keeping on. 🙂 I look forward to see how you keep moving forward, especially in a different domain context.


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