Astronomy: Our World in Space

Class # 60   Grades: 6- 7- 8

Class Overview

In 1609 Galileo Galilei invented a telescope that magnified objects twenty times. With it, he mapped our moon, discovered the four moons of Jupiter, and observed phases of the planet Venus. This marked the beginning of a scientific revolution regarding human knowledge of space. The discoveries since that time have led to a much deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in our universe.

Today it is common knowledge that the Earth rotates on its axis and orbits the sun.  But do we know this from our own observations or have we just accepted it as the truth?  What if these discoveries were deleted from human knowledge?  How long would it take for humans to, again, discover that the Earth moves?  This course will provide students with opportunities to experience concepts that are taken for granted as we explore “Our World in Space.”  In the first week students will observe the waning crescent moon and Venus in the morning sky as we investigate moon phases.  The summer solstice will occur and provide an opportunity to measure the Earth (and size and distance to the moon).  June 17th will be the earliest morning twilight.  We use a special filter on a telescope to observe the sun.

We will begin our tour of the universe by imagining what life was like before light pollution and Netflix as students learn about the importance of our moon, stars, and planets in our solar system to ancient peoples. They will then learn about the physical and chemical properties of massive bodies while applying some mathematics to understand how people derived the size and shape of the earth, and the size and distance of our moon and our nearest star, the Sun. We will observe and map the phases of the moon and make scale models of the solar system. Students will learn about light and its significance for determining the sizes and ages of stars, what they are comprised of, and whether they are becoming more distant. They will then investigate the properties of black holes, neutron stars, nebulae, and gravitational waves.

Field trips for this course will include the Bell Museum & planetarium, the University of Minnesota East Bank campus to visit the Tate Observatory and to learn about the elements from a chemistry expert, and a special Family Star Party Bus trip to the Eagle Lake Observatory Saturday evening, June 27th.

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Jeff Bullard

Jeff Bullard, a returning Summer Academy teacher, is from Enid, Oklahoma, where he taught Junior High Earth Science until 1993 when he moved to Minnesota. Since then Jeff has taught chemistry, math, and earth and space science at Fridley High School.

Stephanie Harris

I am a chemistry teacher at Washington Technology Magnet School in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I have a PhD in Natural Resources Science and Management from the University of Minnesota where my research focused on making compostable polymers from plant materials. I am amazed by this universe we live in and the interactions between matter and energy that occur throughout it – from those that take place on the nanoscopic scale to those that occur in the vast expanse of space. I feel a deep and vested interest in the conservation of our fragile and beautiful Earth. I love to learn, and feel that I am able to more deeply appreciate the universe around me the more I understand it. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, jogging, biking, hiking, swimming, cooking, and doing nearly anything outdoors. I look forward to our journey this summer of constructing knowledge to learn about outer space, astronomy, the solar system, and how we know what we know!


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Astronomy: Our World in Space

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