Finding Activities to Fit Your Needs
The Voyages website is designed to provide flexibility for teachers and students. Our content is divided into three different activity types, which you can use to create a unique learning sequence that suits your teaching and learning needs:
Preflight trainings are designed to build content knowledge and skills. They highlight the essential elements of a topic and should take no more than a single class period to review. Preflight pages also act as a reference for more complex Launch and Expeditions activities.
Activities in this section should take no more than three class periods and involve the exploration of a specific astronomy or engineering concept using SDSS data. They are designed for lower-level students.
These longer projects may require one or more weeks to complete and target students who already have a background in astronomy. These projects are ideal for motivated high school students or university students taking an introductory course in astronomy.
Most of our activities are also marked with a grade to indicate the approximate level of difficulty:
One star activities are appropriate for students new to astronomy. Students as young as 12 years old should be able to use these activities successfully.
Two star activities require some background in astronomy or physics to complete. These activities are usually more open-ended and complex. Students 15 years and older are expected to be able to manage these activities.
Three star activities should only be undertaken if the student is able to work independently or significant pre-teaching is planned. They all require prior knowledge, which is noted at the top of the activity page. Students taking a physics or astronomy course or who are prepared to do independent research will find Expedition-type activities the most interesting.
Models for using SDSS Voyages Activities
Because of the different aims of Preflight, Launch, and Expeditions activities, you can find some of the same concepts explored in each.
Imagine that you are teaching a lesson that involves the magnitude scale. The three types of lessons offered in Voyages give you flexibility in how to approach this concept. Preflight – Magnitude might be a useful reference or homework assignment to teach the concept itself. In Launch – Star Color, students will discover the nature of the magnitude scale through observation. In Expedition – Redshift/Magnitude Relationship, knowledge and understanding of these concepts are prerequisites for the lesson that then goes further to expand student understanding of galaxy redshifts and cosmic expansion.
Voyages is not a sequentially designed experience, and this may cause some instructors to feel uncertain about where or how to dive in. Below, we offer you a few examples of how you might use Voyages in a variety of more specific settings.
We invite you to contact us with your specific questions and needs as they arise so that we might add to this resource page. And, if you have found success with these materials, please let us know!
Example 1: Four-Week Astronomy Unit (Ages 11 – 14)
With limited time and a diverse classroom, we suggest that you take advantage of Voyages to help your students’ emerging mental models of the universe. If at all possible, arrange to host a star party at your school. Show students how to use a star finder and familiarize them with a few constellations. Use this time to reinforce the location of planets within our solar system as well as the location of the stars that make up the constellations outside our solar system. Consider the following sequence:
- If you were able to capture your own constellation photos during a star party, you might enjoy Launch – SDSS Constellations. If not, this activity is ideal as an enrichment challenge.
- Launch – My Special Place in the Database ties what students observe in the sky to the images they will see in the SDSS.
- Launch – Asteroids prompts students to consider what moving objects in our solar system look like in the SDSS images. The activity invites students to hunt for asteroid trails amongst the stars and galaxies captured by the SDSS.
Example 2: Chemistry Class (Ages 15 – 18)
Astronomy is a great place to demonstrate how we learn about the composition of the universe. The study of the elements, ions, and the electromagnetic spectrum finds practical application in the spectroscopy of stars and galaxies.
- Begin with Preflight – SDSS Spectra.
- Screen the “Charting the Heavens” video, and complete the Launch activity, What is SkyServer?
- Use Preflight – Types of Data as a homework assignment to ground student understanding of the technology that produces the data with which they will be working.
- Expedition – Spectral Types is a very open-ended encounter with stellar data that can lead in many directions, one of which would be discovering an association between absorption line features with star color.
- Expedition – Hubble Diagram uses the spectral line features as a further tool to learn about galaxy distance measurements and cosmic expansion.
Example 3: Technology Class (Ages 13 – 16)
The issue of how data are processed, stored, and retrieved is very important. If you are looking for a sequence that teaches about these issues, you will find that doing this in the context of the beautiful images in the SDSS is very motivational.
- Start with the video, Introduction to the SDSS so that students know how and where the images were captured. There are a number of Preflight readings that can be used to reinforce any area that you would like to focus on – Types of Data, SDSS Telescope, SDSS Instruments.
- Launch – What is SkyServer? provides a solid introduction to what a database is and some of the tools programmers have created to allow people to access these data.
- You may need the Preflight readings on RA and Dec and SQL to provide a little extra support before learning how to query a database. Depending upon the experience level of the students, you may have to work with these concepts as a class first.
- Expedition – Hubble Diagram is a longer activity that explores how spectra are used to measure redshift, and ultimately, the expansion of the universe. It is also one of a number of activities that instructs students how to construct SQL queries. You will need to provide some guidance about how astronomers measure the brightness of an object and color. If you have time, having students complete Launch – Color will accomplish both.
Aligning Voyages Activities with Curriculum Standards
Pre-college educators based in the United States may be interested to know which of our activities meet objectives from the Next Generation Science Standards. We have produced a table to correlate our activities with the current standards, which we invite you to explore here: Voyages NGSS connections