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Paper: The High School Physics Curriculum and the University of North Dakota Observatory
Volume: 473, Communicating Science
Page: 373
Authors: Nolby, C.; Hardersen, P.
Abstract: As astronomy is a subject largely absent in the secondary classroom for many reasons, the research presented here attempts to make astronomy education an option for high school students across the state of North Dakota. Through implementation of a two-week astronomy course at Grand Forks Central High School (GFCHS), two class periods totaling nineteen physics students (fourteen in the first class period and five in the second class period) were given the opportunity to learn material that would have otherwise been unavailable to them. Four of these students were female and fifteen of these students were male. 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 activities regarding the course content. 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 other research equipment. During class time on April 25, 2012, students took a field trip to the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences to tour both Aviation and Space Studies facilities at UND. The lesson plan for the course also included a group project utilizing the telescopes at the UND Observatory for remote observing to complete research on the astrometry of an asteroid. Students were given a pre-test at the start of the two-week course, daily exit surveys at the end of each class period, and a post-test at the end of the two-week course. These assessments were used to evaluate student enjoyment, progress, and overall perception of the astronomy course. This research identified common misconceptions in astronomy held by the learners as well as the most effective teaching methods. It was found that this course was overall successful in promoting the students' learning of astronomy in a short time period. This analysis has been used to make improvements in future installments of the course and it is now available to educators across the state of North Dakota for implementation in the classroom.
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