It is the aim of this unit first to instruct students in the concept of ‘scale’, the idea of uniformly changing the dimensions of all germane material in context to each other. Without a firm understanding of this concept it is impossible for the student to fully comprehend the scope of the second objective of this unit.
The second objective is to clarify to the student the basic make-up of the Universe, beginning with the Earth and Moon, the Solar System, and Milky Way Galaxy. It is hoped that the student will come away from these lessons with a better awareness of our planet’s relationship to the other planets and to the stars.
Being an elementary school art instructor, I believe that children grasp concepts quicker and easier through manipulatives; and that they will be motivated faster if they can help create those manipulatives. That is the basis for all the following lessons in this unit. The students will create scale models of the Solar System, the Galaxy, the Local Cluster of Galaxies, and then the Universe. For each new arrangement, we will need to re-scale down our models. This is where it is necessary to understand scale and the integral changing of all applicable sizes corresponding to each new microcosm.
This unit is intended for an upper elementary class but there is no reason that with simplification some of these concepts cannot be explained and taught to a younger group. Likewise, an older class could gain considerable inspiration and pursue innumerable directions at any point and continue on tangents. That is one of the awesome insights that the Universe invites to the spectator. Of all the sciences, Astronomy still offers the most potential for the amateur to contribute significant data and information. This is because of the overwhelming size and distances inherent in any discussion of the Universe, there is still so much ‘stuff’ out there to be explored from even just a backyard telescope.
With the aid of a planetarium and some telescopes, these ideas will become more lifelike and real. Ultimately it is hoped that the students will gain a better perspective of the immense size and structure of the Universe.