Introducing Astronomy Into High School Physics Curriculum Through The Use Of The University Of North Dakota Observatory
Astronomy education is currently lacking in the secondary level classroom. Many programs have been created to remedy this, including research opportunities for students and training workshops for educators. These reach only a small fraction of the population however, while remaining students still lack the opportunity to learn astronomy at the secondary level. This research addresses the creation of a program that will make astronomy education a recurring option for students across North Dakota through implementation of a two-week astronomy course at Grand Forks Central High School (GFCHS) in a class of 19 physics students. During ten class periods from April 16, 2012 through April 27, 2012, instruction included presentation of basic astronomy concepts and observational techniques as well as student participation in demonstrations and in-class activities. Original lesson plans also included a group research project on the astrometry of an asteroid. Students were given the option to visit the University of North Dakota (UND) Observatory the evening of April 20, 2012 for a public "star party" where they received a tour of the university's telescopes and research equipment. Students also took a field trip to the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences to tour Aviation and Space Studies facilities at UND on April 25, 2012. Students were given a pre-test at the start of the course, daily exit surveys at the end of each class period, and a post-test at the end of the two weeks. These assessments were used to evaluate student enjoyment, progress, and overall perception of the course. The research also identified common misconceptions in astronomy held by the learners and the most effective teaching methods. It was found that this course was overall successful in promoting the students' learning of astronomy. This analysis has been used to make improvements in future instalments of the course and it is now available online to educators for use in the classroom.