A cross-age study of junior high school students’ conceptions of basic astronomy concepts
Junior high school students’ astronomy conceptions were analysed by means of a written questionnaire presented to them during the beginning of the first semester. The main findings were as follows: almost half of the students indicated that the cause of the day-night cycle is the Earth spinning on its axis; most students chose as their best account for changes in the Moon’s phases the Moon moving around the Earth. Despite that, most students thought that the Moon must be in its Full phase for there to be a total solar eclipse; most students underestimated the distances in the Universe and overestimated the Earth’s diameter. A great proportion of students indicated that the reason for the different seasons is the tilt of the Earth’s axis relative to the plane of its orbit as it revolves around the Sun. But almost the same number of students chose the varying distance between Sun and Earth or between the Earth, Moon and Sun, as a reason for the seasons. Only a third of the students answered correctly that in Israel’s latitude, north of the Tropic of Cancer, the Sun is never directly overhead at noon; most students chose the correct estimate of a month for the Moon revolving around the Earth and a year for the Moon going around the Sun; about a third of the students chose the correct answer that when it is noon in Haifa, it would be about sunset in Beijing (908 east of Haifa). Few students indicated that the fact that we always see the same side of the Moon from the Earth implies that the Moon rotates on its axis once a month.