DIN Unit 1: Making Observations
Unit One will utilize skills developed in Astronomy With a Stick (AWS) to enable students to make independent observations of the night sky. Activities on the playground will prepare students to locate and record north on their horizon and later use this information to locate the North Star.
The mathematics used unit and in the following units is based on systems devised by ancient astronomers and mathematicians. Students will find that all of the measurement systems used in these units are based on multiples of 6 (6, 24, 60, 360). The Sumerians, Egyptians, Babylonians and other ancient people thought that the year consisted of 360 days. The Sumerians devised a number system based on the numbers 6 and 60:
6 x 60 = 360
The Babylonians divided the day into 24 hours, each hour into 60 minutes, and each minute into sixty seconds:
1 day = 24 hours = 1440 minutes = 86400 seconds
We use this mathematical system today to determine longitude and latitude, altitude and azimuth, and right ascension and declination. Today we can locate ships at sea and cities on land using these systems.
Students should begin their work on Unit One by preparing their journal, which will be used throughout the Day Into Night activities. The journals do not have to be fancy (plain paper stapled together or simple composition notebooks should work), but students should understand that these journals will be very important in the data keeping process. All scientific observations, data, and questions and answers dealing with these activities should be kept in the student journals.
Unit One in Brief
Unit One consists of five activities. Through the course of these activities students should follow this sequence of development:
- Review the cardinal points of the compass
- Review the longitude and latitude
- Learn standards for astronomical observation
- Construct a simple "star map"
- Use a drawing compass and a protractor
- Learn some history of mathematics
Unit One requires that a compass rose be built on your playground. You can do this as a class or by your self before class. Instructions for this can be found on the NSTA website.
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