Cosmic Evolution Module
The universe, the totality of all things that exist, is thought to have begun with an explosion of space and time and the expansion of a hot, dense mass of elementary particles and photons, that has evolved over billions of years into the stars and galaxies we observe today. This grand epic is the story told in the Cosmic Evolution module of Voyages Through Time.
The first lesson, Introduction, introduces students to the concept of change throughout the natural world, and assesses their current understanding of ideas related to the universe via a pre-assessment concept map.
In the second lesson, What's in the Sky?, students are introduced to the wide variety of objects in the universe. They see how scientists use telescopes to capture the energy from different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum that inform our understanding of the universe. Students begin a module-length project in which they research a specific object in the sky.
In the third lesson, Cosmic Distances, students develop a sense of the immense size and age of the universe. They start with a scale model of the solar system, then move to the solar system's place in the Milky Way, other galaxies, and on to the universe as a whole. They learn about astronomers' main measuring stick, the light year, and the relationship between distance and time.
In the fourth lesson, Origin of the Universe, students focus on how the universe got to be so large and so old. They use a simulation of galaxy positions in an earlier time to discover the expansion of the universe and estimate its age. They study conditions in the early universe and create a cosmic timeline that spans important events in the history of the universe.
Within a billion years after the Big Bang, the first galaxies and stars appeared. In the fifth lesson, Formation of Galaxies, students use a computer simulation to explore gravity, then study the process of gravitational collapse that results in the formation of galaxies and stars. They also investigate how galaxies change over time, once they have formed.
In the sixth lesson, Evolution of Stars, students focus on stars, beginning with the tools astronomers use to study them: stellar spectra and the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. They see how stars change as they age and explore the fusion that powers them. They investigate the idea that nearly all the elements in and around us first formed in a star. An extension activity focuses on extrasolar planets, leading into the next module in Voyages Through Time, Planetary Evolution.
The final lesson, Closing, provides two assessments of students' achievement of the learning objectives for the module: a post-assessment concept map and a pencil and paper test.
I really enjoyed the unique approach of the Cosmic Evolution module. Students were able to listen to experts in their fields explain concepts and demonstrate how they acquired their knowledge. The module also included original activities and was extremely thorough.
- Alison Maes, Ferndale HS, Ferndale, MI
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