Lesson 3: The next logical step in astronomy

Timeframe

Expect this lesson to take approximately four 30-minute classes:

  • one for ranking topics, separating into subsequent groups, and beginning group discussion of topic
  • two for researching argument
  • one for presenting arguments and taking a final vote.

Objectives

104-3
Demonstrate and explain the importance of selecting appropriate processes for investigating scientific questions and solving technological problems (e.g., explain why astrology is not a part of science)
104-8
Demonstrate the importance of using the languages of science and technology to compare and communicate ideas, processes, and results (e.g., use appropriate terminology such as "constellations," "planets," "moons," "comets," "asteroids," and "meteors" to describe objects in space)
106-3
Describe examples of improvements to the tools and techniques of scientific investigation that have led to new discoveries (e.g., describe examples, such as the lunar buggy, the Canadarm, the Hubble telescope, and space probes, which have extended scientific knowledge)
106-4
Describe instances where scientific ideas and discoveries have led to new inventions and applications (e.g., describe examples for producing electrical energy, such as how a better understanding of tides has led to their harnessing)
107-15
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)
204-7
Plan a set of steps to solve a practical problem and to carry out a fair test of a science-related idea (e.g., plan a procedure to test a hypothesis in a simulated moon crater activity)
205-8
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)
206-4
Evaluate the usefulness of different information sources in answering a given question (e.g., compare information received from science fiction stories about space with that from scientific sources)
206-5
Draw a conclusion, based on evidence gathered through research and observation, that answers an initial question (e.g., conclude that simulated flour craters are deeper and wider when the marble is heavier or is dropped from greater heights)
207-2
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 give students the opportunity to research the future of astronomy research and exploration. Students should focus on how future research and exploration will contribute to the advancement of astronomy as a science and how humanity as a whole will benifit from an increase in the knowledge of the cosmos.

Curricular Connections

  • Language Arts
    • argumentation and persuasion
    • research

Lesson Overview

Students will be presented with the opportunity to prepare arguments with like-minded classmates for what they believe to be the next logical step in astronomical research, in an effort to convince their opposing classmates of their position.

Materials and Resources

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  • Class Debate Rubric (PDF format, 15 KB)
  • "Research Issue Lists," one for each student
  • research materials (books, magazines, websites)

Developing the Lesson

Without explaining your objectives to the students, open class by distributing "Research Issue Lists," one to each student. These lists should contain ideas for the next logical step in astronomical research, such as (but not limited to) the following:

  • Moon-based telescopes/telescopic advancements
  • lunar colonies
  • Mars landings
  • long-distance manned missions (necessity of near-lightspeed travel)
  • deep space probes (beyond our solar system)
  • origins of the universe

Instruct students to rank the ideas in order of priority; that is, which idea they believe should be the next logical step in astronomical research, and so on.

Collect lists and separate students according to which idea they ranked #1. If some students are alone in their group, redistribute them according to their second choice. Ideally, there should be 3-5 groups.

Instruct students to begin discussing their position within their group, explaining their reasons for ranking it as they did. They will have the next two class periods for researching and preparing a persuasive argument for their position, which they will then present to the rest of the class. After all arguments have been presented, students will vote for the most persuasive argument. Distribute the Class Debate Rubric to students, explaining that they will be evaluated according to this.

Closure

After the votes are tallied and announced, discuss briefly the reasons for students voting as they did. Teacher may offer a small prize to the winning group, if desired.

Evaluation

Evaluate students according to the Class Debate Rubric.

Class Debate Rubric

CATEGORY Excellent Good Satisfactory Needs Improvement
Information All information was accurate and clear Most information was accurate and clear Most information was accurate and clear, but not usually thorough Information had several inaccuracies or was usually unclear
Rebuttal All counter-arguments were accurate, relevant, and strong Most counter-arguments were accurate, relevant, and strong Most counter-arguments were accurate and relevant, but several were weak Counter-arguments were not accurate or relevant
Organization All arguments were logical and clearly followed a premise Most arguments were logical and clearly followed a premise Arguments were logical, but did not always follow a premise Arguments were illogical and did not follow a premise
Understanding of Topic The team clearly understood the topic fully and presented convincingly The team clearly understood the topic and presented with ease The team understood the main points of the topic and presented those well The team did not exhibit an adequate understanding of the topic
Respect for Other Team Showed high respect for other team in language, responses, and body language Showed good respect for other team in language, responses, and body language Showed moderate respect for other team in language, responses, and body language Language, responses, and body language were consistently disrepectful