This unit is designed for a class of about 20- 25 eighth grade students that is co-taught by a certified regular education Science teacher and a certified Special Education teacher. About twenty five percent of the students in this class come from surrounding suburban schools where they have had more direct experience with Astronomy due to decreased outdoor lighting. Another twenty five percent live in the inner city neighborhood where the school is located and the remaining students come from other areas of the city.
To introduce students to astronomy the teachers will present brief information about ancient Chinese, Mayan and Egyptian astronomy. Next, students will be organized into groups of four to five to research basic biographical information about a scientist from the 16th and 17th century. Because the class is a mixture of regular education students and students who have special education IEPs, the instructors will set up the groups to consist of students of varying skills and abilities in each. Each group will be assigned one of the three following people to research: Isaac Newton, Tycho Brahe or Johannes Kepler. Eighth graders connect to factual information better when they can relate to it in a personal way so, they will be encouraged to find anecdotal personal information as well as facts about the person's development as a scientist and what he theorized and discovered.
Students will be prompted with suggested websites to use. Research will take place in the school's tech lab since many students do not have Internet access at home. Teachers will work with each group at specific times to be sure that they are finding the necessary facts about each scientist. The research sessions will be interspersed with lessons on basic physics laws presented by teachers. At the culmination of the research each group will present their information to the class. Because the school is an Arts Magnet school the rubric for presenting the scientist will include an artistic component such as visual art, music or theater.