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Astronomy in the Classroom

If you want to proceed, there's a lot of reading you can do. You can start by checking out Astronomy Magazine's web page, which has links to many other astronomical sites (most of them interested mainly in telescopy and deep space, however, and some of them quite esoteric for advanced hobbyists) As yet, this page does not include the excellent monthly skymaps of the magazine, but reproduces some articles that appear in each recent issue.

Sky and Telescope is another magazine aimed both at high-school science students/teachers and astronomy hobbyists. Their web page also provides access to a catalog of their publishing and distribution service. Several items from this are recommended below. They also put on line a very well-organized version of their catalog-- SKY Online - Sky Publishing Catalog.

New Star Gazers Home Page--is a fairly new (late fall '95) web page whose focus is novices. It contains astronomy software reviews, some links where you can download PC astronomy shareware, good places to buy equipment, and etiquette for a Star Party -- which is an excellent student activity to plan for clear fall or spring weekend nights. The webmaster will probably be influenced by receiving email from teachers and others as to what he includes.

Our Solar System--Much text info and many telescopic photos of the planets and moons. The best one I've found yet for the Space Science portion of 7th, 8th, 9th grade Earth Science.

Shop at our online poster store! We have selected a great group of posters with images from the Hubble Space telescope, Deep Sky images, the Earth from Space, the Solar System, and Men in Space. Take a look and decorate your room, or find a great gift here.

Bill's World of Astronomy--Bill Henderson, Canadian Native causes lawyer, who produces one of the finest Aboriginal links index-pages and the most complete native law page is a hobbyist astronomer. Naturally, this is one of the most complete astronomy links-pages.

On the final page about the Medicine Wheels is a bibliography of books and articles which modstloy appear in technical periodicals or books that were published from 1974 - 1980.

In 1977 a 27-minute 16 mm color film was made with Dr. Eddy of the wheel. It's Is there an American Stonehenge? it's been converted to videotape, available for $49 from the makers:

	Harold Mayer Productions
	50 Ferris Estate
	New Milford, CT 06776


A lady from there who had been involved in mking the film told me recently that in 1977 when they went to Wyoming and tried to go up there at summer solstice time with Dr. Eddy, there had been snowstorms for 10 days. "Our very small budget was almost used up," she said. "We had to tell him that we could wait only another day, then we would have to scrub the project....but that last day was great, we were able to get up there and film the sun rising, and the dawn-star rising of the planet Venus." I told her they should have taken tobacco the very first day they went up there and maybe it would have been different, as it had been for me. (I also fasted for 4 days before driving there, and purified myself in a waterfall on the southwestern slope with sage I found there.) The videotape entirely focuses on the mathematics by which the mute stones spoke, but as is usual with cameras, the sky and earth of this beautiful location can be seen to speak for themselves, too.

AMERICAN INDIAN ASTRONOMY, TEACHER GUIDE, TEACHER INFORMATION, STUDENT ACTIVITIES, by Priscilla Buffalohead. Brief presentation of many of the same topics covered in more depth and detail here.

If your school is on the Plains or Prairies far from city light pollution of the night skies, it seems a shame not to offer observational astronomy for your students. Of course, school meets in the daytime, but as this section has shown, observational astronomy includes (it must start with) understandings about positions and motions of the sun, moon and earth. I'm recommending several class study items aimed at teaching kids to recognize star names and sky patterns in conventional trms (perhaps some star lore survives among your elders locally, too). Computer programs -- where you can run the appearances of stars forward or backward in time 10,000 years, and "locate" skies for exactly your latitude/longitude complete daytime class materials. You can have starwatch night parties, too. Good binoculars are better than a telescope, and if you are not a big astronomy buff, do not get a telescope anyway, no matter how much money you have.

Red Moons Rising: Two full moons will be totally eclipsed in 1996, so they will be seen in the sky as red moons. . On April 3, from 5:21 p.m. EST to 8:59 p.m. EST, a red full moon rose just after sunset, visible in its total eclipse for the East and most of the Midwest (the Plains and west will see it only in penumbral -- partial shadow --eclipse). Did you see it?

Plan on this one for next school year: Another red moon should be visible in full-moon red eclipse for longer all across North America on September 26, starting at 8:12 p.m. (penumbral) EDT, umbral eclipse lasting from 9:12 p.m. - 12:36 a.m. EDT.

Eclipse-moons appear red because of myriads of sunsets and sunrises on earth, whose red light is reflected back from the moon when earth's full-dark (umbral) shadow blocks it from the sun. The September eclipse might have some interesting star reflections on the red/dark part of the moon, too, that may look like flashing silver lights on the coppery reddened moon, because bright Jupiter will be very near it, and another 5th magnitude star will be fully occulted or covered. Reflections of starshine on crater peaks may occur. Red moons may be seen in crescent, half, and gibbous phases, too, as well as full, though the viewing period is usually quite short, just while they're rising or setting. There's actually only a few days each lunar month of apparent fullness, so the probability of seeing an off-full moon in the umbral shadow that makes it red is higher. A crescent red against a clear starry sky moon is a really beautiful sight.

Where do you find out about things like that? Well, what you need used to be called an Ephemerides, they were used by ship navigators. "Ephemeral" means fleeting, short-term, and that's what kind of sky phenomena an ephemerides tabulates: short-term changes in the sky, day-by-day, night-by-night. A near-equivalent, from the Sky catalog is Astronomical Tables of the Sun, Moon and Planets (Jean Meeus, $21.95)which goes through the year 2009 (and some distance into the past, too) to show eclipses, occultations, conjunctions, oppositions, sunspot activity periods, It's an almamac of the solar system, as seen from various latitudes/longitudes of the earth.

Kind of heavy going, that one. Better for outside observations (from Sky's catalog) Bright Star Atlas 2000.0 by Wil Tirion ($9.95). This shows stars to magnitude 6.5 (9600 visible stars) -- all that are visible to the keenest unaided eyes. It's a 9 x 12" 32-page paperback, easy to see and to roll up to take camping too. There are 10 skymaps of the entire sky and 6 seasonal constellation-finders, it's cheap, too, a real consideration for class or group use of star books which can get quite expensive.

Sky and Telescope Magazine is $27/year (U.S.) and $36.38 (Canada). Sky Publishing also publishes and distributes a number of books, skymaps, star finders, big posters, software, and a few gimmicks and games. Call 800/253-0245 for the hardcopy Sky catalog, or current subscription info. Individuals subscribing must have credit card info; schools will be billed for subs. Ask also for the ESSCO classroom charts and lab exercises catalog. Their policy on school orders: the first must be cash (check or COD), thereafter they will take PO's NET 30.

Recommended from the Sky catalog (Amazon links where possible):

  • The Stars, A New Way to See Them, by H.A. Rey. Rey is the author/illustrator of the well-inown children's book series, Curious George (a monkey) looks at this and that and goes here and there. He put his writing and illustrative talents to work for this book and the children's version below. Rey's new way is a redrawing of the constellations (generally abstract arbitrary connections of star-dots with fancy arbitrary myth-pix overlaid) where Rey connects the stars in different orders to make line diagrams that stick-figure resemble their ancient names and so serve as better locators and reminders. This paperback is for junior high through adults. It's been a top seller for more than 40 years, for good reason.
  • Find the Constellations, Rey. This is a children's version of Rey's excellent constellation finder. It includes stories and quizzes as well as sky-views and simple constellation-mnemonic line drawings. Ideal for middle school. It has been discontinued, but is on sale at reduced-price from Sky Publishing catalog until supplies are gone.
  • Planet and Star Locators: These are center-pivoted wheels, so you can revolve the sky charts to correct for observing time and latitude. Most of them go only to 50 north, so Canadian people north of that must get the Kennedal wheel ($19.95) that goes from 30 - 60; Any further north and you have to look for Arctic specialties (not well suited for novice use). For locations no further north than about 50, other Kennedal wheels are available that have horizon-azimuth and altitude lines. Horizon-azimuth is the "flat earth" locator system most people instinctively use; the one using celestial equator, right ascension and declination coordinates (explaiined on my linked page with the big star chart) has to be taught.
  • The Night Sky Wheel, David Chandler, $7.95 is more economical and comes in 4 models, up to 50 north. A good class or homestudy accompaniment is Chandler's Exploring the Night Sky with Binoculars, $4.95, about 10 years old up.
  • Sky and Telescope Monthly Star Charts, $24.95. These are more expensive than the ones described below, but they are also larger, sturdier, better bound (important for outdoor use) and have more info.
  • Peterson Field Guide to the Stars and Planets, . This small (4.5 x 7.75") sturdy paperbound guide (like the Peterson field guides for plants and animals) is ideal to take camping and to have always in your car for long night driving away from cities, where you can take a star-gazing break at lonely (and dark) Prairie roadside rests.
  • Two low-cost posters: Astronomy: Anatomy of the Universe, $8.95, has telephotos of all the planets and one each of the major deep-sky objects such as differently-shaped galaxies. Autora, $9.95 is a beautifully-produced large photoposter of many diffeernt types of aurorae (northrn lights), hould be of special interest to Canadian and northern U.S. classrooms. Comes with an explanatory article about what causes them.
  • Personal recommendations: The most beautiful astronomy book (that I could afford) is A View of the Universe, optical telescopic photos of stars, nebulae, galaxies, by famous amateur David Malin ($39.95). He captured these for their beauty, not for science. About 100 of Malin's photos are also on a CDROM ($149), I found those very disappointing by comparison to the book's high-quality reproductions. Want to learn some astronomy yourself before starting your class on it? A complete course-in-a-paperback is Astronomy: A Self-teaching Guide, Dinah L. Moche, $16.95. Most parts are at a level for bright high school students, or one of those college astronomy courses for non-science majors. The only thing wrong with it is that the quizzes that occur every page or two have their answers right there, not even to be looked up on another page, impossible not to see them, so the quizzes are worthless as reinforcements.
  • Lighted Celestial Globe, $98. If you can't afford the bigger and scientifically more useful Trippensee globe from Carolina Biological (below), this one's half the cost, useful and highly decorative. The 12" globe with constellations is opaque when its interior light's turned off. Some people actually find it easier to see stars and their labels than the transparent Trippensee. Turn on the light inside it, and artistic colored paintings of the mythic figures of major constellations appear. The sunpath we've been looking at so closely lights up as 24 bright disks along its ecliptic path. Latitude/longitude adjustments are more difficult, though, and you can't set an hour-meridian over your area to see what the night sky will look like there and then.
  • Observer's Handbook (each year): . Published by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, this respected almanac is a favorite of amateurs. It contains a monthly sky-event calendar (both naked-eye and telescopic) and timely info on what'll be going on in the skies. Many articles and reference data are included Like the Peterson Field guide, this is a smallish paperback that can be taken camping overnight hiking or kept in a car. The source guarantees good sky info quite far north.
  • Seeing the Sky, Fred Schaaf, is a book of 100 experiments using household materials and the naked eye, most do-able in daytime, suitable for grades 7-12 science. Now available Seeing the Deep Sky.

The following are all available from Carolina Biolgical Supply 800/222-7112. Call for their catalog for complete school science supplies, apparatus, lab furniture, books etc.

  • Official NASA Moon Map, 41 x 37", 57-9717 ($6.95). Try to get 2 of these. You'll want to post it, so the kids can study the craters and other features. But on the back is its index, an alphabetized listing of lunar features with approximate coordinate locations; post them next to each other. Binoc moon gazing will be much more interesting if you have this reference,
  • Astronomy for Every Kid: 101 Experiments that Really Work, Janice Van Cleve, ages 8-12. Easy household or Wall-mart type amterials, experiments (mostly) to be done in daytime. Why do planets spin? Demo of of earth-sun-moon illumination and phases as they revolve, etc.
  • Seasonal Star Charts, by Hubbard Scientific, 61-2434, $15 each. Try to get one for each student, or at least more than one for the school. This is a 32-page very sturdy book of 11" x 14" star charts for each season of the year, with instructions on how to correct for latitude, longitude and time of night. A luminous star finder on the cover is a gimmick which is useless in the field at night (take a red flashlight). The sturdy bound book is far preferable to wrestling with large folded maps in the dark. It works better in the classroom, too.
  • Exploring the Sky by Day, by Terence Dickinson, $9.89 (grades 5+) focuses on things that can be observed and measutred in daytime with no special equipment. Children's Literature Roundtable book Award-winner.
  • A celestial globe is as beautiful as it is useful for daytime astronomy study. The good ones are as expensive as other real student science lab equipment. The Trippensee Explorer 61-2082, $215 is a 16" sphere of transparent plastic with stars and constellations engraved on its inner surface (you can mark the outer with erasable markers). The center is a small earth globe, which can be rotated and there is a little sun that can be set to position above the earth, inside the sky-sphere,. Time, date and location scales are adjustable.There's an instruction booklet with some lessons. The globe sits loose on a small plastic tabletop stand and may be picked up and moved around in the classroom. Get this one in preference to the slightly cheaper 12" globe, which is harder to see the star patterns on, and whose instruction booklet -- an important part of classroom use -- is rudimentary. Ancient observational astronomers, who would have been lost with telescopes and such instrumentation, would have gone nuts with delight to have one of these celestial globes. They're really classy-looking, too as sculpture.
  • Orion, The Hunter --{Can't find this} The main thing about this MacMillan astronomy book is it's partly on-line, but you have to ait a long time for thir catalog softwar to find it.


    • Software: For both Macs and PC's, Distant Suns by Virtual Reality Laboratories, is highly recommended. For both machines, it comes either on floppies or (recommended) on CDROM. VRL also offers the Mars Explorer and Venus Explorer software, which lets you cruise the surfaces of these planets quite close-up. For PC's only -- but it will work fine on an old 286 and an outdoor battery-notebook portable that doesn't even have color -- Dance of the Planets, ARC Science Simulations Software, $175, is far and away the best educational astronomical software there is, unfortunately not available for Macs. It doesn't come with an instruction booklet, but a full-size book, including some lessons, and a lot of observational guidance. Most astronomy software assumes you're a semipro astronomer already. Take a look at CyberSky now.

    • Redshift and Small Blue Planet are CDROMs for either Macs or PC's, widely available from school catalog computer software vendors such as Educational Resources (800/624-2926; ask for their full-line catalog). Both are being included in various Apple educational bundles for purchasers of new school Macs, and are often included with add-on CDROM drive bundles. Astronomy software and numerous gadgets will be found advertised in two magazines highly useful for schools: Astronomy whose web URL is given above, and Sky and Telescope (which I actually like somewhat better).

    • Home of "The Earth Centered Universe" Astronomy Program--For Windows PC's only, this is shareware (pay if you play). You download an .EXE file, which is a self-uncompressing envelope that contains the whole thing, go to RUN in the Windows Manager and run it, it will decompress itself and give you some installation instructions.

    • Mac Astronomy Shareware: There's a link to a trove of it in the UK from the Astronomy Magazine page -- but I couldn't get on that far-away server. Try again, get there from the Novices starpage.

    A caution about astronomy shareware: It's all by buffs, and much of it does things novice students (and those without fancy telescopes) have no need for. Too, it usually has 2 great weaknesses for novices (and teachers): (1) No instructions and lesson material; (2) The user interface is weak and confusing, so you never really understand what's what. Those are the major weaknesses of all shareware. It is worthwhile to get quality software that comes with excellent documentation and a user interface that (after a while) you can learn to control.

    Astronomy software is all necessarily rather complex, because it allows you to set the place from which you are virtually viewing the sky and to set the time generally over a range of 20,000 years. All good software also lets you turn constellation marker and other sky-reference lines on and off, and click on stars and constellations to get info -- at least the names. Too, most astronomy software lets you cruise out in the solar system as well as take an earth-centered viewpoint. Before you can teach anyone to use it, or work at night with elders on star lore using a notebook computer, you have to become thoroughly adept in using it yourself. This also means studying some observational astronomy, so you can find your way around the night sky, and understand how time -- both time of night and time of year -- affects the star patterns (and planets and satellites) you will see from your places of observation. Using a laptop computer at night is a very powerful aid to observational astronomy and will help you link what elders tell you about the night skies with conventional astronomical terminology.

    Posters--These enhance class interest and are often quite pretty too. The several science catalogs described above, and the 2 astronomy education magazines all carry a varying assortment. A good set of posters, both cheap and rather more expensive ($30) photoposters are illustrated and available on Sky's Web Catalog.

    You can check out a more artistic approach, where (even where the posters are photos) the focus is beauty, rather than teaching utility or illustration, at the Novagraphics Gallery, which specializes in all sorts of "space art" ranging from science/fantasy to astronomy.

    Star lore from elders: I'm not sure how much of this has survived confinements in reservation/reserve prison camps, but in any case, it took Sinte Gleshka scholars, who are native to their reservation, more than 15 years to gather the information that fills a pretty slim little book. If you are a native scholar able to do so (proficient in your language), you might try, especially if you are able to observe outdoors with an elder. If your language has mostly been lost, little can have survived of your Nation's star lore but disconnected fragments, and those children's tales -- legends -- anthros are so fond of. The young people will have to recapture the skies for themselves, guided mainly by the blaze and glitter of the night.

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    CREDITS: I drew the star-quilt star, guided by a real quilt by Elaine Brave Bull of Standing Rock Hunkpapa Lakota. The woman instructing was drawn by Kahionhes (John Fadden), Mohawk artist, for Awkesasne Notes in 1973. This is a crop from a large pen-and-ink drawing which in reality is cross-hatched. In shrinking and reducing it to 2 colors for this page, it came out as if made of dots; I liked the effect for a stars page. The little sunrise and night dividing line I found on a free graphics resources for webbers page (which is linked-to on my Web Tutorials page). No one should use th graphics from another's web page without permission -- which is (in my case) almost never granted. But some noble souls prepare lots of graphics for novice webbers. Othr than that, nobody wants to see images they slaved over used elsewhere. I've had that experienc even for backgrounds. This fuzzy little starry sky with a quilt effect was stolen by a student at MIT who -- get this -- uses it on his amateur web page design company advertisement homepage.

    Page prepared by Paula Giese, c. 1995, 1996.

    Last updated: Tuesday, July 09, 1996 - 11:46:13 AM