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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $25.00
  • November 2014
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-26415-9
  • 176 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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Learning Astronomy by Doing Astronomy

Collaborative Lecture Activities


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Stacy Palen (Author, Weber State University), Ana Larson (Author, University of Washington)


Education research shows that students learn by doing.

Written by two expert teachers and based on astronomy education research, this workbook guides students through concepts, promotes quantitative literacy, and increases student confidence in their understanding of how the universe works.


Students learn astronomy by doing astronomy

Thirty collaborative, hands-on activities were written to be completed in pairs or small groups in any size classroom. Every activity guides students through the logic of the concept—such as the causes of moon phases, explored in Activity 4—and fosters critical thinking skills.  

Organized by learning outcome

Each activity is organized by learning outcome, giving instructors flexibility and making it easy to match course goals with assignments. Pre- and post-activity questions, available in PowerPoint, and as automatically graded questions in the Coursepack, allow instructors to assess specific skills inside or outside the classroom.  

Rich, balanced coverage

Learning Astronomy by Doing Astronomy activities are evenly distributed across the introductory astronomy course. Instructors will have as many choices in the first half of their course as they have in the second half. 

Supports quantitative literacy

Many of the activities ask students to do some quantitative thinking—such as reading graphs or understanding units—to support the basic skills most instructors want their students to develop as scientifically and mathematically literate individuals.  

Ideal for flipping the classroom

These class-tested activities can easily supplement or replace “lecture.” The instructor’s materials, written by the authors of the workbook, provide a complete guide, including pre- and post-activity questions that can be used with clickers. 

    Activity 1: Mathematical and Scientific Methods
    Activity 2: Astronomical Measurements: Examples from Astronomical Research
    Activity 3: Where on Earth Are You?
    Activity 4: Studying the Phases of the Moon from a Privileged View
    Activity 5: Altitudes of Objects on the Meridian at Your Location
    Activity 6: Working with Kepler’s Laws
    Activity 7: Extraterrestrial Tourism
    Activity 8: Light and Spectra
    Activity 9: Where to Put the Telescope?
    Activity 10: 51 Pegasi: The Discovery of a New Planet
    Activity 11: Ranking Task for Formation of Planetary Systems
    Activity 12: Age Dating the Lunar Surface Using Cratering Statistics
    Activity 13: Comparison of Storms on Jupiter and Earth
    Activity 14: The Clearing and Herding of Saturn’s Ring Particles
    Activity 15: Moons of the Giant Planets
    Activity 16: Classifying Meteorites
    Activity 17: Spectral Classification of Stars
    Activity 18: Finding Distances to Stars Using Parallax Measurements
    Activity 19: Analyzing a Coronal Mass Ejection from the Sun
    Activity 20: The Stuff Between the Stars
    Activity 21: Investigating the Crab Nebula and Pulsar
    Activity 22: Determining Ages of Star Clusters
    Activity 23: Bent Space and Black Holes
    Activity 24: Light Travel Time and the Size of a Quasar
    Activity 25: RR Lyrae Stars and the Distance to the Center of the Galaxy
    Activity 26: Finding the Expansion Rate and the Age of the Universe
    Activity 27: A Cosmic Calendar
    Activity 28: The Hubble Deep Field North
    Activity 29: Calculating the Mass of the Central Object of the Galaxy
    Activity 30: Habitable Worlds 

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