For Teachers

Welcome Teachers!

Many of my readers use Sky Lights as a resource for teaching astronomy, meteorology, or earth science. Teachers from middle school through high school tell me it’s been a valuable supplement to their regular course content. Sky Lights is also used by homeschoolers who need help with science and math. We have a special page for home schoolers here: http://sky-lights.org/for-homeschooling/

Not surprisingly, even if you’re an expert in science and math, it can be difficult to get children interested. They’re generally good at visual learning due in part to growing up with computers. So I include graphics, photos, and videos in each post to clearly illustrate the topic at hand.

We have an archive of posts dating back to June 2004 (nearly 600 as of this writing). You can browse or search that archive for whatever topic or content you need. You’re almost certain to find what you’re looking for.

Here’s a few things you should know about Sky Lights:

  • Sky Lights is a supplement designed to stimulate curiosity, guide inquiry, and provide explanations for difficult concepts. It is not a substitute for a textbook, online or in print.
  • The average readability grade level for Sky Lights is grades 7-9, but precocious 5-6th graders find it understandable.  Content is tested for readability here: http://www.readability-score.com/
  • Topics focus on astronomy, meteorology, and earth & space science, with occasional forays into other areas. My choice of topics is largely driven by current events, astronomical cycles, and questions from readers.
  • Most content on this website is copyrighted. Some is in the public domain. For more details, see Legal.
  • You don’t need a telescope or other special equipment to benefit from Sky Lights. Binoculars can be useful, and most any type will work fine. The only “experiments” suggested relate to visual observations.
  • You’ll find lots of astronomical names in Sky Lights. Educators need to use the correct pronunciations more so than anyone — and I’ve heard some astronomers get these wrong. For your reference, I’ve produced a document that covers most of the names you’re likely to encounter, including stars, planets, moons, surface features, and constellations. Download my Astronomical Pronunciation Guide here.  
  • My Links page contains additional resources you might find useful. I’ve reviewed them all for pedagogical value. I try to avoid commercial sites with ad content. You can trust my links.

Using Sky Lights in your classroom:

For science and math teachers, whether you’re trying to supplement an existing curriculum or trying to come up with your own from scratch, here’s some ideas that have worked for others:

1. Use Sky Lights as a research assignment for a written report. I recommend citation exploration as a requirement. Most Sky Lights posts contain links to outside resources and/or earlier posts. Any post can stand on its own as an educational tool, but for greater depth these links will be useful. Most links access government or academic institutions, but now that Wikipedia has matured I’ve been using it more often. For a student research assignment, consider using this template.

2. Have the student browse the post archives for one that includes a graph or chart with numerical data. Copy that graph and submit it along with an explanation of what information is being conveyed. Converting visual information into verbal information requires both understanding and carefully-crafted sentences.

3. Have the student browse for a specific graphic or animation, and then revise it with an editor to show modified or additional features. They can also choose to create their own graphic or animation from scratch. Write a report explaining what new science is being shown.

4. Have the student browse for a specific photograph of some natural phenomenon. They then take their own photograph of a similar phenomenon and submit it with a report explaining what science it shows.

5. For math, browse for a Sky Lights post that includes a mathematical formula. Maybe half of them do. Some are easy and others take some work to use. Have the student find one they feel comfortable with and actually do the calculation with the goal of getting the same answer. Then, do it again using different data from a different physical scenario. Calculators are allowed, but their work and results should be submitted on paper.

6. Use Sky Lights as source material for student-generated tests. Students are asked to write a specified number of multiple choice questions (with an answer key) based on the content of a single post. Tests are exchanged in class using any number of protocols, students complete each other’s tests, and grading is done by the students themselves.

7. Direct your student to http://heimhenge.com/ and see if something there might be of interest in their learning goals. There are many free downloads they might find useful. There are also lessons for advanced students available for a micropayment.

I taught math and science for 30+ years so I know it’s not easy, but I’m here to help. Suggestions for topics are always appreciated. Simply Ask a Question. Again, welcome and best wishes in your educational endeavors.