The video collection project
A discussion about pedagogy
An example sequence of topics for 8-year-olds visiting a planetarium for the first time at a location in the mid-Northern Hemisphere could be:
- introduction to the planetarium and what will be discussed in the lesson, including directions;
- appearance of the sun movement with speeded rotation in the daytime sky;
- the nature of the sun and the sun as a star;
- sunset and introduction to the night sky with stars and any planets;
- illustration of the difference between this sky and a sky with light pollution;
- discussion of characteristics of visible planets;
- major constellations of the night sky and a myth featuring one constellation;
- speeded Earth rotation at night with the appearance (perhaps discovery) of constellation movement;
- discovery of the apparent center of turning: the North Star Polaris for the Northern Hemisphere and the South Celestial Pole for a Southern-Hemisphere location;
- sunrise and conclusion. (Remember, this is just an example, and if you prepare a long sequenced lesson you should decide on your own situation and topics.)
Of course, the methods used and depth of discussion must vary with the types of students. Some topics have explanations that require high-level physics or math for full understanding. Many topics that have an Earth-based view component can be presented in the planetarium at an early age, although young students cannot yet completely understand the concept.
For example, the Earth-based view of the changing sun path can be learned by students at about 7-8. These students also can learn the “from-outer-space” view of the seasons, such as one provided by an orrery having the Earth with an inclined axis and the sun. However, most will not be able to integrate the two views to completely understand the seasons concept. This integrated understanding, called a “projective concept,” is difficult for many older learners as well.
I (Jeanne Bishop) discovered some years ago that only a few 13-year-old students, those who possessed innate advanced spatial ability (determined by administering a separate spatial test), were able to learn the projective concepts of seasons and lunar phases. (Ph.D dissertation:The Development and Testing of a Participatory Planetarium Unit Emphasizing Projective Astronomy Concepts and Utilizing the Karplus learning cycle, Student Model Manipulation, and Student Drawing with Eighth Grade Students, Jeanne E. Bishop, University of Pittsburgh, 1980).
Further, at a meeting of Ohio planetarians on April 11, 2015, at Bowling Green State University, host Dr. Dale Smith noted that most of his college students do not learn the projective concept of seasons.
The difficulty that students have in forming projective astronomy topics is something for us all to keep in mind as we plan our lessons. It should be noted that research is beginning to show that using optimal methods in fulldome planetariums may accelerate the acquisition of projective concepts by young students.
The given recommended ages are determined by some research, much experience with students in the US, and extrapolations based on Piaget’s studies of the development of spatial and logical-thinking ability. New research projects which test these recommendations for understanding each topic within specific environments (including fulldome planetariums) and different worldwide locations are needed.
Graphics from phillipmartin.com