Thoughts on Astronomy and Education

Some musings on astronomy education, ideas for improving it, and suggestions for teaching it

I'd love to be able to offer a full curriculum on astronomy, telling a fascinating journey of discovery, explaining why we believe what we believe, showing everyone how it all relates to the world you can actually see around you, and covering everything a modern educated person should know. But I don't know if I'll ever be able to do that. Writing a long story like this, building your own entire curriculum from scratch, is a little like building a building from scratch. You start by gathering your construction materials and laying out some scaffolding. In my years as an elementary and junior high science teacher, I've created some (I think) useful materials, and I've learned how to tell a few chapters of the story, but I'm still a long way from a textbook or a complete curriculum.

This website represents an attempt to edit and formalize a few of the pieces, to put them into a form that might be interesting or useful to others, and to make them available publicly. I recently published a teacher's guide to lunar eclipses (Thinking About Lunar Eclises), and I recently published my first video course (Constellations for Kids), but apart from that I don't have much formal curricular material to offer...yet. Consider this website, and especially the list of articles below, as a loose and evolving collection of drafts of lesson plans, explanations and ideas for presenting various topics, and guides to using various physical or digital teaching aids.

The first two articles below are a little more philosophical, while the following articles on photography and planetarium-making discuss more practical activities — activities that can help to present observable evidence regarding what goes on in the sky. The article on moon phases is probably the closest thing I have at the moment to a written lesson plan, and the only extensive example of what I have in mind when I talk about astronomy "for thinkers". The final article on art is just a whimsical collection of paintings I like. For more specific activities and projects, try the downloads section.