Lesson 1: Time line of astronomy events and discoveries


This activity requires approximately four 30-minute classes: one for research, one for creation, one for sharing with group, one for sharing with class and mounting on wall.


Compare tools, techniques, and scientific ideas used by different people around the world to interpret natural phenomena and meet their needs (e.g., compare how different cultures over time, such as the Celts, the Aztecs, and the Egyptians, have traced the positions of stars to determine the appropriate time to plant and harvest crops)
Describe scientific and technological achievements that are the result of contributions by people from around the world (e.g., describe international contributors related to the construction of the space station)
Identify and use a variety of sources and technologies to gather pertinent information (e.g., use electronic and print resources or visit a planetarium to gather information on the visual characteristics of planets)
Communicate procedures and results, using lists, notes in point form, sentences, charts, graphs, drawings, and oral language (e.g., write a postcard describing your holiday on a planet other than Earth and include in the description the key characteristics of that planet)

General Objectives

This lesson is designed to help students gain an understanding of how the science of astronomy has evolved over the centuries. It also gives students the opportunity to see how international collaboration within the field of astronomy has lead to new discoveries and applications.

Curricular Connections

Language Arts

Lesson Overview

By working cooperatively within groups, students will each research and present assigned segments of a timeline, describing the progression of astronomical discovery throughout history. Through cooperative learning, students will teach their peers about their segments and thereby be responsible for their group's learning.

Materials and Resources

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Developing the Lesson

  • Have students hypothesize as to how long it would take to journey from Earth to Pluto at a cruising speed of 100 km/hr (approximately 6581 years); now, how long would it take to cross our galaxy (about 1.7 trillion years)? As students will see, our galaxy is enormous, and is only a very small part of the universe as a whole.

Discuss the applications of space research to our modern society (eg., how stationing sattelites in space for research purposes has led to advancements in radio and television communication via sattelite; meteorological observation/predictions made possible by sattelite). Where would society be today without previous centuries' astronomical research?

Explain the project to follow

  • divide students into groups of six; explain that each student will be responsible for one of six topics in an astronomical timeline, based upon the Module 7 Student Module Content:
    • Ancient Astronomers
    • Astronomy in the Middle Ages
    • Technological Advances
    • Space Age Astronomy
    • Space Race Achievements
    • Canada's Role in Space Science
  • students will have one class period to research their topic, one to create a poster of their findings, one to present it to their group, and one to share the group's completed timeline with the class. The groups will each choose their best segment(s) to mount on the wall/bulletin board as part of a class timeline.
  • present students with materials.
  • present students with copies of the Cooperative Learning Rubric, explaining that they will be evaluated based upon these criteria
  • allow students to begin work.


After presenting their completed timelines to the class, groups should be asked to choose one or two of their best posters to contribute to the class for mounting on the wall/bulletin board. Students can then be instructed to return to their desks to write brief paragraphs describing one event which they did NOT research personally.


Evaluation should be based upon the Cooperative Learning Rubric, as explained to students earlier. Posters may be evaluated according to neatness, clarity, accuracy, and presentation.

Cooperative Learning Rubric

CATEGORY Excellent Good Satisfactory Needs Improvement
Contribution to Group Regularly provides useful ideas to group; contributes a strong effort Often provides useful ideas to group; tries hard Sometimes provides useful ideas to group; does what is required Rarely provides useful ideas to group; may refuse to participate
Quality of Work Highest quality work High quality work Work sometimes needs monitoring or re-doing Work usually needs monitoring or re-doing
Effectiveness Regularly paces work well; does not need to be encouraged to get work done on time Usually paces work well; may have needed some encouragement to get work done on time, but does not hold up group's progress Tends to procrastinate, but always gets work done on time Rarely paces work well; group's progress is held up by inadequate time management
Attitude Never openly critical of project or others' work; positive attitud Rarely openly critical of project or others' work; mostly positive attitude Sometimes openly critical of project or others' work; partially negative attitude Often openly critical of project or others' work; mostly negative attitude
Preparedness Always ready to begin tasks Almost always ready to begin tasks Almost always brings needed materials, but distractions sometimes slow progress Often forgets to bring materials or is rarely ready to begin tasks
Collaboration Almost always contributes to group dynamic by listening, sharing, and supporting others' efforts; encourages  group unity Usually contributes to group dynamic by listening, sharing, and supporting others' efforts; does not create problems for group Sometimes contributes to group dynamic by listening, sharing, and supporting others' efforts; sometimes a poor team player Rarely contributes to group dynamic by listening, sharing, and supporting others' efforts; often a poor team player