UCI Observatory - Astronomy Outreach Program

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Astronomy Activities for Teachers

We have developed a number of activities for Grade 3, Grade 5 and Grade 8-12 teachers to do with their students prior to and after tours of the Observatory or our outreach visits to the classroom. These activities are based on California State Science Standards and most include fun, hands-on activities that stimulates learning and increases retention. We also have created some activities for college-level introductory astronomy classes, which are especially useful for assigning as extra credit. Click on the links in the right hand column to download the necessary files. Answer keys for the college-level assignments are available by emailing us.

If you use these activities with your class, please let us know and return this survey to us so that we can continually improve these activities. Help us by reporting on the survey any typos or errors that you find. Mail or email the survey to: Prof. Tammy Smecker-Hane, tsmecker@uci.edu, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, 4129 Frederick Reines Hall, University of California, Irvine, CA 96697-4575. We greatly appreciate your input. 

Activity Grade Level Required Files
1. Exploring the Night Sky
This activity introduces students to the celestial sphere and the night sky. Students learn to use a night sky map to locate constellations and planets and how the night sky changes over the course of a night as the Earth rotates about its axis.
Gr 3-12, but can be adapted for even younger ages ELEM_Activity_NightSky.pdf
2. Observing the Constellations of the Zodiac
This activity teaches students about the constellations of the Zodiac and demonstrates that what you can see in the night sky changes each month as the Earth orbits the Sun. 
Gr 8-12, but can be adapted for Gr 3 HS_Activity_Zodiac.pdf
Zodiac.ppt
Zodiac.pdf
3. Exploring the Phases of the Moon
This activity gives students a chance to do hands-on experiments that demonstrate that the relative positions of the Earth/Moon/Sun determine the observed phase of the Moon. 
Gr 3 ELEM_Activity_MoonPhases.pdf
4. Rising and Setting of the Moon
In this activity students will do hands-on experiments and learn that each different phase of the Moon rises and sets at a different time of day. Children also learn that the time of day is set by the location of the Sun relative to an observer on earth, and the time of day is different for people at different longitudes on the Earth. 
Gr 3 ELEM_Activity_MoonRiseSet.pdf
5. Your Place in the Universe
In this activity, students will explore where our Earth and our Solar System reside in our Galaxy.
Gr 8-12 HS_Activity_YPIU.pdf
HS_Activity_YPIU_Worksheet.pdf
6. Determining the Sizes of Stars Using the HR Diagram
In this activity students will explore the reasons why stars are grouped into specific categories in the Hertzsprung-Russell (HR) Diagram based on their luminosities, temperatures and radii.
Gr 8-12 (Requires Algebra) HS_Activity_HRDiagram.pdf
7. Measuring the Rotational Speed of Sprial Galaxies and Discovering Dark Matter
In this activity, students will measure the rotation of a spiral galaxy using the Doppler shift and learn that galaxies are mostly  made of "invisible" mass called dark matter.
Gr 8-12 (Requires Algebra) HS_Activity_RotCurve.pdf
HS_Activity_RotCurve_Surveys.pdf
8. Measuring the Rotational Speed of Spiral Galaxies and Discovering Dark Matter
In this activity, students will measure the rotation of a spiral galaxy using the Doppler shift and learn that galaxies are mostly  made of "invisible" mass called dark matter.
College (Requires Algebra) COL_Activity_RotCurve.pdf
Answers available upon request
9. Determining the Sizes and Distances of Stars Using the HR Diagram
In this activity students will explore the reasons why stars are grouped into specific categories in the Hertzsprung-Russell (HR) Diagram based on their luminosities, temperatures and radii. In addition, they will use the apparent magnitudes of the stars to calculate the stars' distances. 
College (Requires Algebra and Logarithms) COL_Activity_HRDiagram.pdf
Answers available upon request
10. Solar System Crossword Puzzle
A fun way to test what children have learned from our Solar System lessons. It is geared mostly to children in Grades 3-8.
Gr 3-6 sscrossword.pdf
sscrossword_answers.pdf
11. Milky Way Crossword Puzzle
A fun way to test what teens have learned about our galaxy, the Milky Way, and its place in the Universe.
Gr 8-12 mway_crossword.pdf
mway_crossword_soln.pdf
12. Cosmology Crossword Puzzle
A fun way to test students' knowledge of our lectures in cosmology. 
Gr 9-16 cosmo_crossword.pdf
cosmo_crossword_soln.pdf
13. Night Sky Crossword Puzzle
A fun way to test student's knowledge of the night sky and designed to be used in conjunction with the February night sky map. 
Gr 5-16 ns_crossword.pdf
ns_crossword_soln.pdf