Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teacher's Lab
A Private Universe Project
IntroductionIn Class Activities

What causes the phases of the Moon?

What are the reasons for the seasons?

image of student

If you ask any number of people questions like these, almost every one of them will have some ideas that make sense to them. But how do people get their ideas? Are their ideas scientifically accurate? And if not, how could you help them understand a more scientific view?

It turns out that many people share the same inaccurate ideas. This is understandable. Our casual observations of the sky lead us to believe what we think we see, and not what is scientifically accurate. The earliest of astronomers thought Earth stood still while the Sun, the Moon, and the stars orbited past. And today, in viewing the splendor of the full Moon, many of us may never realize that the moon does not produce its own light, but merely reflects the light shining on it from the sun.

What do your students think? What are their ideas, and how do they come up with them? Take part in the Private Universe Teachers' Lab to practice techniques of identifying student misconceptions and moving toward conceptual change. Basic astronomy is one of the topics by which you can discover student misconceptions and explore strategies that foster scientific understanding.

In this Lab you investigate questions and answers that will help you elicit student ideas about the distance between Earth, the Sun, and the Moon and about the phases of the Moon. You preview a selection of in-class activities that will help you displace misconceptions and demonstrate science knowledge. And, along with other teachers around the world, you participate in discussion forums that will help you better your teaching practice in science education.

Visit the Lab

"A Private Universe" was created and produced by Matthew H. Schneps and Philip M. Sadler, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Partial funding for "A Private Universe" was provided by the National Science Foundation.


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