ASTR 430: Astronomical Pedagogy

This course investigates methods for effectively teaching astronomy. All levels from general public outreach to college level are discussed. Students critically assess astronomy education articles and lead seminar discussions on topics in astronomical pedagogy.

Past Projects

  • 2010: Portable Planetarium

    Under Prof. Seth Redfield, students train in the use of the portable planetarium, and on the presentations appropriate for the facility and the intended audience. The final class period will include a discussion of our experiences using the portable planetarium in order to identify strategies that did or did not work to effectively convey astronomical concepts. We are fortunate to have several astronomical education and public outreach experts scheduled to give guest lectures. These will occur during the middle of the semester. The remaining seminars will be class presentations and discussions, lead by enrolled students. These talks will summarize the results of a recent pedagogical research paper (e.g., from the Astronomy Education Review or equivalent source). A keen discussion will likely follow, including follow-up questions of the speaker.

    More about 2010: Portable Planetarium

    The service learning component includes use of a portable planetarium and taking the planetarium to a local elementary school and/or running it in conjunction with a Wednesday evening public viewing program.  Pairs of students give two planetarium presentations as part of the class work.

    MacDonough School (Middletown, CT) was among the participants and mentions the Planetarium visit on their blog.

    Learn more about the Starlab Planetarium.

  • 2008: Climate Change Photography

    As part of Wesleyan’s “Feet to the Fire” climate change initiative, Professor of Astronomy, William Herbst and visiting artist, Marion Belanger, co-created a module entitled, “A Photographic Window on Causes of Climate Change”. This course is designed for graduate students in astronomy as well as junior and senior undergraduate majors. Students are very familiar with the basic scientific concepts about global warming, have the ability to evaluate scientific arguments and are versed on the physics of global warming, particularly through their studies of Venus warming. However, they have relatively little, if any, experience with the concept of “visual literacy” and how an artistic approach to (what they see as) a scientific issue can be of pedagogical value. The goal of the module is to introduce students to an artistic approach through a class-collaborative photographic assignment that resulted in an exhibition in the hallway of Wesleyan’s Observatory.

    More about 2008: Climate Change Photography


    See more of the exhibition in the Wesleyan Connection:

    “Climate Change Topic of Photography Exhibit” (11/11/08)