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Paper: Promoting Student Inquiry with WorldWide Telescope
Volume: 531, ASP2020: Embracing the Future: Astronomy Teaching and Public Engagement
Page: 471
Authors: Jerome, J. M. E.; Lee, A. T.
Abstract: Astronomy courses are among the most popular science courses offered at the university level, but engaging, inquiry-based laboratory activities that extend the lecture content as well as utilize real astronomical data are difficult to come by. Especially during these trying times of remote learning, effective virtual labs are vital to aid in students' understanding. Using WorldWide Telescope, a free planetarium software package that runs on a web browser, we have created a set of computational labs that allow students to explore the universe around them. Students analyze the night sky and the Milky Way Galaxy at different wavelengths in our Electromagnetic Spectrum lab, discover the phases of Venus that led Galileo to his heliocentric model in our Phases lab, and investigate the counterintuitive movement associated with retrograde motion in our Retrograde Motion lab. Each lab does not simply reprise the same material from the lecture; rather, they allow students to explore how these topics fit into the bigger picture of astronomy and allow their own curiosity to dictate the direction of the lab. Additionally, these labs require students to employ the scientific method by making predictions, testing hypotheses, and reaching evidence-based conclusions. For example, the phases of Venus are tied into the phases of the Moon, showing that the same ideas can be used to explain both phenomena. Similarly, the retrograde lab has students predict and calculate the frequency of retrograde motion for other planets besides Mars. All of these labs have a corresponding workbook and instruction manual, and they are publicly available.
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