The universe is a fascinating place. Somewhere out there, beyond the edge of our onion skin thin atmosphere, lie wonders and monsters: tiny, voracious holes in the fabric of space that are infinitely black and infinitely dense, capable of ripping entire stars to pieces; vast clouds of dust and gas giving birth to hot, young suns and planets; the corpses of old, bloated stars, now shrunk and spinning rapidly, with blinking beams of radiation like interstellar airport beacons; distant galaxies colliding with a burst of star formation, trailing arcs of blazing suns and spewing jets of intense energy. Everywhere we look, matter and energy dance to intricate patterns of creation and destruction. Everywhere we look, there are surprises.
We live in what is truly the golden age of astronomy and space exploration. We have more telescopes in space and on the ground with better capabilities than at any time before, with better tools for analyzing and interpreting the avalanche of data these instruments provide. A fleet of space probes is traveling throughout our solar system and beyond, investigating the sun, the planets, small objects and large objects, and even our own Earth. After years of building, the International Space Station gives humanity a permanent outpost in space, and even despite the retirement of the space shuttle fleet, with new commercial launch systems coming online in the next few years, the solar system will open up at last to human exploration.
It would be a shame, therefore, if any student were to go through school without catching the excitement of space exploration and astronomy. This blog is dedicated to helping teachers in all disciplines do just that: to share lessons, activities, links, and resources that can help teachers bring the currency and excitement of space science into their own classrooms.
It doesn’t matter whether you teach science and engineering or if you teach English, drama, or history or any other subject. Space science is a theme that can integrate all disciplines together and help reinforce core subjects and objectives for all classrooms. This sounds a bit grandiose, I suppose, but it is literally true. Exploring the wonders of the universe inspires students and can get them excited about learning and education. Do you teach physical education? Engage your students with how astronauts have to train for the stresses of launch and long-duration space missions, and how difficult it is to maintain a body in good physical condition while orbiting the Earth. Do you teach political science? Show the history of space exploration and how what started out as a space race spurred by cold war rivalry has now become a collaboration of many nations; how space exploration has brought us all together and showed us that we all live on the same small, blue planet.
I personally have taught many subjects, including physical and biological sciences, computer technology (including media design and 3D animation), social sciences (world and U.S. history, civics, and political science), and even art and photography. I’ve found ways to integrate space science into all these subjects without compromising the standards and requirements of the classes; in fact, using space exploration as a theme helps me teach these subjects more effectively as I engage my students in something exciting and current.
I’ve also had experience with many NASA educational programs, and with my experience, contacts, and zealous enthusiasm, I hope to provide a site that you will find useful, inspiring, and exciting. So welcome to this blog. If you have any comments or questions, please contact me. My name is David V. Black, and my email is: elementsunearthed@ gmail.com.
Please feel free to use, change, modify, mash up, distribute, or add to any lesson plans or other resources I post here, unless otherwise noted. All I ask is that you give me credit for the original ideas, as I will for others whose work I will adapt for this site. Please share what you see here with other teachers, and I hope to hear from you and perhaps even meet you at conferences or through other programs.