Spring 2015 Syllabus

ASTR 405(G) -- Astronomy For Teachers

I. Course Description

This class presents selected topics, including laboratory experiences, in areas of astronomy relevant to elementary, middle grades, and secondary teaching. Instruction will be differentiated according to the student needs.

In this course, everything you learn will be built up from direct observations that you will make in class.  You will help design and carry out experiments, participate in online discussions, and also carry out your own personal observations, predictions, and reflections. This process will provide you with more than just knowledge about the particular concept under study. The goal is for you to understand why a particular scientific definition is made and be able to better comprehend the meaning of the physical laws that unfold.

Pre-requisites: ASTR 104 or ASTR 106 or ASTR 214
Please be aware this is a demanding and rigorous course. To succeed in this course it is necessary that you possess solid college-level reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Math at the high school algebra level will be used, so the student should be familiar with basic algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Most importantly, you must demonstrate good time management skills and be highly self-motivated and self-disciplined.

II. Required Course Materials

Each student is required to have her/his own account with MasteringAstronomy. This can be purchased on-line through the MasteringAstronomy website.

J. Bennett, M. Donahue, S. Schneider & M. Voit (2009), The Cosmic Perspective, 6e with MasteringAstronomy, Addison-Wesley, ISBN 0-321-63366-0

III. Professor

Richard Gelderman
230 Thompson Complex, Central Wing
Western Kentucky University
1906 College Heights Blvd
Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101-1077

office phone: (270) 745-6203
fax: (270) 745-2014
webpage: http://astro.wku.edu/gelderman/
e-mail: richard.gelderman@wku.edu

IV. Expected Course Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

A. Demonstrate an understanding of the modern view of our place in the universe, the scales of size and separations of celestial objects, and the relative motions of objects in the universe.

B. Explain how celestial objects, such as the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, appear to move in the sky as viewed from Earth; the reasons for the observed seasonal changes, the phases of the Moon, and for eclipses.

C. Use gravity, the laws of motion, conservation of energy and momentum, and the properties of the electromagnetic spectrum to understand the workings of our universe. Explain the key physical concepts that allow us to determine the ages of the Earth, the solar system, the stars, and the entire universe.

D. Describe the strategies for teaching astronomy that result in the most student learning. Demonstrate familiarity with the neurological and pedagogical research supporting these strategies and with methods to implement the strategies in the classroom.

E. Understand how a scientific theory can be developed from systematic observations and experiments. Perform observations and experiments and build a conceptual framework to explain phenomena.

V. Grading

There are four required quizzes to assess the degree to which material from each section is learned. The collaborative final project is the capstone experience of the course, using the skills developed by the previous experiments.

Your grade will be based on your performance of the course requirements. Points are earned based on the values for each course requirement stated below.

No work will be accepted for a grade beyond the due date. All work turned in for a grade must be your own. No credit will be given for work that is not demonstrably your own. Discussion board contributions must be submitted to our Blackboard PHYS 410 course site.



Required In-Class Activities & MasteringAstronomy Assignments

The assignments are time-sensitive and have firm participation deadlines.

450 pts total 450

Class participation and Leadership

Students should come to each class meeting prepared for that day's topic and should be proactive about volunteering to contibute to class discussions and group activities.

4 pts per class meeting 50


The content exam will have a firm due date and must be taken during the class period it is scheduled. A make-up exam will not be available without a documented and unavoidable conflict that is brought to the attention of the instructior prior to the start of the test.

1 @ 150 pts 150
Capstone Project

Every student must submit a proposal, complete the approved project, and submit the results of the project prior to the final class meeting of the semester.

350 pts 350


The following grade scale will be used to determine your semester grade.
Grade Points
A 900-1000
B 800-899
C 700-799
D 600-699
F 0-599

Time Magnagement, Assignments & Due Dates

Plan to start the course promptly and complete each assignment well before its deadline. Visit the Blackboard and MasteringAstronomy online sites at least every other day to read announcements, check the assignment schedule, complete homework, and take quizzes. Students are responsible for keeping up with and adhering to the due dates and other instructions posted there in the course calendar and announcements areas of the Blackboard online classroom.

VII. Capstone Project
This course requires completion of a collaborative experimental investigation. Each student is required to submit an individual project proposal that is meant to demonstrate the preliminary planning that has occurred and to offer your instructor an opportunity to assess the level of difficulty and to help you plan a project that can be completed in the appropriate time frame. Your group will decide what project to undertake and what you hope to learn. In addition to carrying out the necessary experimental measurements and data analysis, you will be expected to complete a concise written report of your investigation. Your project report is a group effort, with all group members expected to contribute in a substantial way.

Beware of Murphy's Law. Working on your projects is your responsibility. Due to the independent nature of the work, there is a tendency for students to put off the project until the deadline for completion nears. Because there are usually unforeseen problems when attempting any scientific experiment, you are urged to begin your projects early. One of the skills we hope you learn is how to deal effectively with unforeseen (and sometimes difficult) problems.

VIII. Course Policies
  1. Blackboard
    At the WKU Blackboard website, https://ecourses.wku.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp, you will find logon instructions about how to gain entry into our course site. Click the Tools button to find a manual explaining the various functionalities of Blackboard. Please look it over and consult it when you have questions about how to use the various Blackboard elements.

    Once you successfully enter our ASTR 405 coursepage on Blackboard, you can click on the various icons there to read announcements, pick up assignments, take tests, view grades, use the discussion board, use email, and consult other materials placed there.

    You are responsible for reading all announcements posted in the Blackboard announcements area. Check announcements each time you login being sure to read all announcements posted since the last time you logged in.

  2. LearnSmart study modules
    McGraw-Hill Publishing is releasing a set of online self-study tools called LearnSmart to go with the Connect online homework system. In return for agreeing to complete a survey on your experience with LearnSmart, free registration is available for LearnSmart during this course. At our course's Connect website (http://connect.mcgraw-hill.com/class/astr405gelderman2013) you can register using this access code: CVM4-MKNN-TCJP-XKMH-N4X8.

    Completing these study module will contribute up to 10% of your overall grade.

  3. MasteringAstronomy Assignments
    Weekly assignments are available from MasteringAstronomy. Each week there will be assignments related to the material covered in class, including Self-Guided Tutorials, Ranking & Sorting Tasks, and Visual Quizzes. Access to MasteringAstronomy must be purchased. After you get access to Mastering Astronomy, you must link yourself to our course, using ASTR405GELDERMAN2013 as the course ID.

  4. Quizzes
    There are three quizzes during the semester that count toward your overall grade. Each of the quizzes must be taken online in Blackboard and must be completed during its window of availability. The tests are open-book, students may use any outside resource, including, but not limited to, textbook, notes, or the Internet.

    The instructor will clear any locked quizzes. But don't expect the instructor to be able to unlock it in time for you to retake a quiz if you get locked-out late on the last day of its availability. It is strongly suggested that you take the test early in the week to avoid this potential pitfall.

    No make-up quizzes are given for unless the student [1] notifies the instructor prior to missing the quiz or [2] provides acceptable documentation indicating an exceptional circumstance caused the quiz to be missed without prior notification. Since the quiz is available for several days, it is rare that a student will be allowed to take a missed test.

IX. Course Calendar

Mar 23 Modeling Cosmic Distance and Size Scales, Celestial Motions and Time
Mar 30 Reasons for the Seasons, Moon Phases
Apr 06 Quiz 1 due, Electromagnetic Spectrum and Astrophysics
Apr 13 Telescopes and Astronomical Observing
Apr 20 Quiz 2 due, Cosmic Age: scale of the Milky Way and look-back time
Apr 27 online assignments, no class meeting - Planetary Processes: Atmospheric and Geological
May 04 Quiz 3 due, Life Beyond Earth, presentation of capstone projects

X. Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who require accomodations (academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids or services) for this course must contact the Office for Student Disability Service, (270) 745-5004 V/TDD. Please do not request accomodations directly from the professor without a letter from the office of Student Disability Services.

Updated March 2013