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Earth in Space: astronomy activities

Young students are very interested in astronomical matters, but sometimes it’s difficult for them to grasp the essential ideas. To improve this situation some teaching activities have been developed within the ISSUE project – Integrating Subject Science Understanding in Europe.

The aim of this project is to improve the understanding of scientific subjects developing research-based teaching materials in collaboration with in-service teachers.

Bernat Martínez Sebastià, a science and ICT teachers trainer at CEFIRE (Centre for Professional Development, Innovation and Teaching Resources), Spain, who is taking part to the project, tells us more about it and its science education activities.

Everyday ideas of students about astronomy
According to science curriculum standards ,pupils aged from 11 to 14 should be able to know and explain basic astronomical phenomena, such as night/day and seasons.
On the other side, there are some research articles, which show that very few pupils are able to do so. The same research identifies , some typical patterns in students’ preconceptions:
- a distorted view of how the Sun’s pathways across the sky change, such as “sun rising position is always in due East”, “sun’s altitude over the horizon is bigger in summer than in spring ”;
- lack of ability to properly connect the basic hypothesis of the sun-earth model with observations, for example in using the change of the Sun-Earth distance to explain the annual changes in temperature.

Outline of teaching learning sequence
To address these difficulties,  two teaching sequences have been designed, using flash simulations. The sequences are now available in Spanish and in few months they will be also in English.

In Lesson 1 pupils are guided to describe the motion of the sun and the moon in the sky during the day and the year. This means to be aware of the existence of singular days (equinoxes and solstices) and of the seasonal symmetries.

In Lesson 2, students are helped to get a functional knowledge of the basic hypotheses of the scientific model. This means to improve their spatial representation skills, to be able to describe day/night, moon phases and seasons.

To have a look at the teaching sequences:

Other related projects:

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