Sunday, December 11, 2011

Teaching Students to Tell Time with the Stars and Google Sky

Wow!  The set of lessons on "telling time with the stars" from ARIES Exploring Navigation: Location, Direction and Latitude  was just amazing!  My middle schoolers loved it, too--on their self evaluations it was the highest rated set of explorations for them.

You can't get the lessons for free, however, you can contact Charlesbridge Publishing to receive some sample lessons, or purchase a download license for all of the teacher and student lesson materials ($30) from the website.

The tool that you and your students will build to tell time with the stars (and you'll learn how to find latitude and longitude with the stars, too)  is called a Nocturnal. or star dial, nocturlabe or horologium nocturnum.   It has been used for centuries to navigate by the stars.  The photo at the right is a working nocturnal that can be worn as jewelry!

The tricky part to these explorations is that you need to practice in the classroom to make sure the kids know how to use the tool, but they must actually do the star-gazing at home.  The teacher materials provide detailed ideas on posting constellations and guide-stars on the wall in the appropriate locations...but I had a fabulous idea!  Why not use Google Earth (in Space mode) and have the stars in the correct locations already?

I actually used the Google Earth method as a way to give my students a performance assessment on the proper use of the nocturnal.  It worked like a charm, because I could change the positions of the stars accurately for each class, without having to climb the wall.

Here are some photos of my students during their "test":




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1 comment:

  1. It works really well in a planetarium, too.
    Ronn

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