Ideas For Teachers

I hope the following will be used in discussions… be they in a classroom, home, youth group, old people's home…

Learning shouldn't just be confined to the daycare centers!

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Big shout out for…

https://stellarium-web.org/

This is a BRILLIANT resource! What Galileo, Keppler, and others would have given for it! Be sure to set your location (button, lower left). And then send your kids off "exploring". Have they ever seen a planet in retrograde motion? Have they THOUGHT about… lots of things! Can they correctly predict the differences they will see on different dates? From different positions from the ground? Can they navigate by the stars… i.e. determine their latitude and longitude?

Can they become fluent with the Stellarium interface? (A worthwhile skill exercise in its own right!)

Grasp what "Azimuthal" and "Equitorial" grids are all about? Understand that we needed to be able to MEASURE the heavens before our study of the heavens could get very far.

Or you could arrange to take them out to an isolated, light pollution-free hilltop at 11pm… And have a quarter of the learning opportunities….

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"Everything" lists…

A big part of that leap forward for humankind was the making of lists. The thinkers of the day were fanatical about having lists… so they could be sure they knew "everything" about every topic.

Here's something I find amusing… maybe others will too.

Let's start with the grand-parent of them all: All Matter. The Greeks said "Everything" was Earth, Air, Water or Fire, or mixes of the same. What was the comparable list in 1900?

Then there's Linneaus. Make a list of All Living Things. (And from there, a list of All Animals.)

How about a list of What Happens When You Heat Things?

You can make a game out of this. Each member of the group does his/ her own list. Then discussion. Shortest list wins. But if Alice has 4 items on her list, but Bob has an item that Alice can be persuaded covers something she didn't cover, then Alice's "count" goes up by TWO.

Can all things be turned into such lists? How about "Human emotions?" Not so easy. If you have "happy" on the list, some would say that also covers sad. They would say that when you lack happiness, you are sad. Not so! It isn't like the volume on your radio. They are two separate things. You can be sad AND happy. (Death of a loved one of a protracted, painful, incurable disease. Neither… depressed. Just Happy. Birthday party when you are six. Just sad. In trouble when you are six.)

This isn't just a silly exercise. Serious science begins with making lists, lists with numbers attached. Until someone found a way to make a "list" of all the colors, with numbers, it was hard to say whether two colors were the same, and VERY hard to talk, unambiguously, over the phone (or, more usaully important, in "papers") about a particular color. This "assigning numbers" is called "quantifying".

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