The night sky once guided travelers on land and at sea the world over. Constellations and prominent stars stood out as sign posts to point the way and to calculate how far one had traveled. Travelers learned the skills needed to read these stellar sign posts or they lost their way. For the most part, students today don't need the stars in order to travel. There are maps, road signs, buoys, global positioning satellites, and other tools to light the way. But to know Earth's place in the universe, to understand the scale of vast interstellar distances, to gauge time all the way back to the beginning, and to satisfy the tenets of science literacy, students should understand how to find and map the stars and other objects in the night sky.
In spite of technological advances, for many students the night sky is a foreign language, distorted by the noise that makes it hard to see the signs, much less read them. The noise emanates from the intense and often misdirected lighting many communities use to light the ground at night, leading to a phenomenon called light pollution, a mustard colored haze that makes it difficult to see most stars, except for the brightest. Day Into Night (DIN) is designed to introduce the words and basic grammar of nighttime astronomy, by relating it to students through familiar activities of Astronomy With a Stick (AWS), a daytime astronomy program developed by Sylvia Shugrue and Father Francis J. Heyden. As students learn these skills, DIN will also help students measure the effect of light pollution on their own observations, so they can learn why it is so important to reduce the impact of light pollution.
Day Into Night is a set of activities for upper elementary and middle level students. In Day Into Night students will develop and use basic observational techniques to explore the proliferation of light pollution. Supported by a IDEAS Grant from the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute, the Day Into Night activities were written by Sylvia Shugrue and Larry Lebofsky. Sylvia, now retired, taught in the Washington, DC public schools for over twenty years. She is also the author of Astronomy With a Stick, a set of daytime astronomy activities for elementary aged children. Larry is an astronomer with the University of Arizona, and the president of the Arizona Science Teachers Association.
Day Into Night consists of three units designed to be taught over two years. Unit One uses the skills learned in Astronomy With a Stick (AWS) to enable students to make independent observations of the night sky. Unit Two teaches your students about the celestial sphere and its constellations. Unit Three uses the foundations built in Units One and Two to explore the concept of light pollution. Data collected in Unit Three will be shared by students around the world via the World Wide Web. Day Into Night will allow you to connect science lessons with history, language arts, mathematics, and many other disciplines:
- Journal keeping is a major part of all activities
- Encourage your students to explore history with Day Into Night activities
- Use the connections between mathematics and science to help students make sense of data
Day Into Night is supported by an IDEAS grant from the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute
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