Friday, November 29, 2013

"To Every Season: Turn, Turn, Turn"

I definitely was ready for Thanksgiving break.  Last week, I was exorcised three times.  I'll just let you think and wonder about that (I think one of my balls of sunshine watched The Conjuring recently..............)  This week of course was the mighty battle for attention, as everyone was jittery and just wanted VACATION!!!!!  Actually, it wasn't a horrible week, but I did have to change plans and postpone a couple of discussion because their heads and hearts just weren't in it as much as I needed them to be.  To spice things up, in a couple of classes, I gasped as though I saw a ghost when we lost steam a little bit (via Love, Teach).  It worked!! Plus, everyone thought it was hilarious and kept asking me to do it again.  I told them that it really is a one-time deal,or at least until I think they've forgotten enough to try it again.  On Wednesday, we got out at 1:30, but I had a few darlings stay because they didn't really use class time wisely (don't worry, all these lovelies live in town and parents were still working, so I really wasn't keeping them from anything overly productive).  After an hour, the last finished his work.  Yes, it was a bit annoying to me because I did plan to actually leave early for once, but this group often is great at wasting time and I did derive a small bit of pleasure at their grumpiness about staying to finish their work on THANKSGIVING BREAK!!

Now, onto a different topic.  Those of you who teach astronomy are probably aware that the cause of the seasons is a challenging concept for students.  In fact, there is a large percentage of students that will still hold onto the naive ideas about seasons, such as distance from the sun, even after being confronted with ideas that challenge the idea of seasons.  This is my 4th year teaching about seasons.  Each year, I have tried to adapt materials to help confront those preconceptions/misconceptions that my students have.  Last year and this year, in addition to a few other activities, I have used a small station lab.  I have adapted it from STORM activities, ideas from my IMPACT class, and also from one the items I use for the stations.  I set up three stations on each side of my lab.  I have students cycle through the stations, I give about 10ish minutes at each station.  One station is about sun angle, one is also about sun angle but uses a heat lamp and globe and surface temperature thermometers, and the last station uses a Seasons Globe.  For the setup of the first two stations, I have linked to the site that will tell you how these are setup and built:   Sun Angle and Temperature .  I'm having trouble finding a link so that you can see what the globe looks like.  If I find the paper that can with it, I will update this post later.

Here is the Seasons Lab:

Seasons Lab Stations 2012

I also made a probe in Page Keeley style to uncover their ideas prior to us starting this topic: Cause of the Seasons.  Of the 33 students that took the probe, only two answered correctly and provided sound reasoning.  There were 6 total that chose the correct response, but didn't have an explanation that demonstrated accurate understanding.  I informally polled students, and in one class more seemed to be moving toward the tilt as the cause.  I plan to include a very similar probe to more accurately check to see what change has occurred.

In what ways do you teach seasons?  What has worked well for you?  I'd love to hear some thoughts!

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