Some thoughts on how to talk to a learner in astronomy
Astronomy is a science.
Astronomy is a part of physics. Astrophysics is part of astronomy?
Astronomy deals with everything outside the atmosphere of the earth, and with some phenomena on our planet, that have there origin outside, f. ex. the tides of the oceans.
Astronomy is very lively, is at this time maybe the most innovative science.
Astronomy has its origins in Astrology.
Astronomy has therefore a history of several thousands of years. Astronomy stirs up questions about our own origin and our own future. Astronomy tries to answer the question, if there is life outside our planet.
Astronomy is the scientific basis for space science.
Astronomy can be romantic.
Astronomy is something for amateurs too.
Our course will start with what you see with your eyes on the surface of our planet, and end up with the most distant objects we know.
We will talk about the beginning of the universe and about the end of space and time.
We will consider what ancient cultures thought about the stars, and why we are thinking the same or different today. We will use as much of school physics as possible. In some cases, we will conduct experiments. If you have some kind of instrument for observation (field glasses, telescope), we will always tell you if you can use it for real experience.
Your guide through this astronomy course will be a white eagle. This bird is flying high in the air, has sharp eyes, sees far, is close to the stars and has wisdom. And he is proud to be a teacher.
What you need to do this course: I recommend you to take 1 year of time, composed of 34 working weeks. And in each working week you have to work for about 6 hours. The total time load thus will be 204 hours. You need some basic ideas about physics. F. ex. if I say “temperature”, I expect you to know it is about hot and cold. I don’t expect you to know, how to measure temperature, this I’ll explain to you when it is needed.
You have to have some basic ideas about algebra. F. ex. if you get a formula with several letters that are being multiplied, you should be able to solve it for one of the variables.
If you need more, I’ll explain to you when needed. You’ll need an electronic calculator with scientific notation. But you don’t have to know yet what scientific notation is, you’ll learn. Lot of your working time, about 1/2, you’ll spend solving astronomical problems. This is the main think you’ll learn here. Because if you want to take a written exam in astronomy, they will most likely give you some problems to solve and ask you to explain your solution.
But the most important thing you need is a sound motivation for doing this course. Because sometimes, like in every work, you’ll ask yourself why you are doing this because it is hard. Ans then you shouldn’t stop but continue till the end. So one of your first tasks will be to get clear about your motivation and trying to strengthen it if necessary. What you also need is good learning conditions. Try to have a quiet room to work in and a regular time.
The best is if you don’t work on your own, but together with some friends. Try to form a group of about 4 persons, who all want to do the course and are ready to help each other when needed. Try to have regular group meetings and get your learning process organized well. Tips for group learning you can find here in WikiEducator.
The level of the course is oriented at Bavarian “Abitur”. That means if you do this course, you’ll be able to solve the problems you get in physic/astronomy in the Bavarian secondary school final exam. In Bavaria, the written exam in “Grundkurs Physik”, basic course in physics, is composed of for semesters, two semesters in electro-dynamics and two in atom- and nucleus physics or two semesters in astronomy. The exam is centralized and the problems posed are open source. They will form part of the problems for exercise given in this course.
O.k., now let us start. Activity: Brainstorm about the notion astronomy. What associations do you get? Pleas not them. (3 points) (Stars, planets, night, sky, romantic, telescope, lonely observer, shooting stars, moon, silence, clouds, weather … )
Take your list and put personal emotional ratings to your associations. (+ positive, o neutral, - negative) ( 3 points)
Now it gets more difficult. Please ask yourself, what motives you have to deal with astronomy. (Example: You see yourself as a romantic person, and being outside at dawn watching the stars come out has for you a romantic touch. (Therefore in your brainstorm, you gave stars + and romantic +.) This can be a motive to become interested in astronomy. Definition: a motive is the driving force in your psyche to do something. Example: If you feel hungry, the wish to fulfil this need is the driving force, the motive, to look for food. (curiosity, eagerness to acquire scientific knowledge, romanticism, need to do an exam … )
Now ask yourself, if your motivation (the sum of all motive forces inside of you) to do this course in astronomy is strong enough to encounter difficulties that will arise. If you feel this is not the case, ask yourself what other reasons you could maybe find to do the course. Example: Broaden your general knowledge about the world, impress your girlfriend, becoming an astronaut …
What also can help you to motivate yourself is to go out into the night below the sky full of stars, and ask yourself if you really want to know what is out there and become able to follow scientific discussions, and even become able to calculate astrophysical problems.
Often indirect motivation is even stronger. Example: You want to undertake studies with some friends of yours in order to improve your chances in working life. Therefore you have to take some exam, and you can choose between astronomy, biology or chemistry. You have no special preference, so you take astronomy, because it begins with the letter a . But in this case don’t forget your motive “improving chances”, because sometimes it may seem far from astronomy.
For me personally, astronomy was a means of dreaming to become someone very special, a famous scientist, lonely with the infinity above. I coupled to my attraction of science fiction. I was fascinated by television series like “Raumschiff Enterprise” and dreamed of flying to other worlds. Astronomy was for me the possibility to prepare myself. I started calculating the orbits of satellites with 14 and observation with 15, when I got a little telescope for Christmas. In school I gave a lesson about astronomy to my fellow students, and with 16 I explained astronomy to 50 youngsters, a whole evening. Taking slides from a book in astronomy. Later on I studied astronomy at university level for 2 semesters, but was rather disappointed, because it was so widespread and chaotic.