Models for using SDSS Voyages Activities

The Voyages website is designed to allow maximum flexibility. It is not a curriculum; only topics that can be presented in the context of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey are included. As a result, some content may appear in multiple and/or different forms and approaches within the website itself while other topics essential to astronomy are not covered. Resources and lessons are designed with a shopping cart approach in mind: the educator pulls the appropriate material and resources from Voyages “shelves” and combines them with other activities to create a unique learning sequence that we term a voyage.
Although the activity descriptions already provide the most comprehensive picture of the activities, we would like to offer you a few examples of how you might use Voyages in a variety of more specific settings. Voyages is not a sequentially designed experience, and this may cause some instructors to feel uncertain about where or how to dive in. Please use us as a resource; we want to provide support to you. To that end, 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, please, if you have found success with these materials, let us know in the Teacher Contribution section. We may even decide to use what you share in the Feature Teacher section.
The user cases that follow are purposefully brief. Please consult the Activity Description section for more details and for other ideas regarding the placement of these activities.
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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 – 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 – Galaxy Shapes moves students out beyond our Milky Way. Use each student’s unique starting point from My Special Place to explore and report on the diversity of objects they find and classify.

• If you have sufficient time, continue with galaxies and patterns with the second part of Galaxy Shapes, Introducing Edwin Hubble’s Galaxy Classification.


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.

• Reinforce classroom instruction about atomic models and the light we observe when elements are heated with a study of the SDSS spectrum graphs.

Begin with Preflight SDSS Spectrum Graphs.

• Screen the Introduction to the SDSS video, or complete the Launch-type 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.

• Launch – Redshift uses the spectral line features as a further tool to learn about distances in space.

• Launch – Stellar Spectra 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.


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, The Telescope, 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 Galaxy Color teaches students how to construct an SQL query. 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.