Author: Andrew Fraknoi
Organization: Foothill College
Grade Level: Undergraduate

Round 1: June 2009






Bill Gates' Great Great Granddaughter's Honeymoon Trip: A Lab

Grades: Undergraduate

In this lab, developed for my astronomy-for-poets class at Foothill College, students organize themselves into travel agencies and use Hubble images to plan the "trip of a lifetime" to ten celestial marvels that are both beautiful and "instructive." I use this lab, which has been very popular with my students (about 75 per quarter) to acquaint them with the amazing repository of Hubble images, to get them to think about what it would be like to visit the objects we have been studying and see some of them up close, and to help them see the Hubble images in context. The students must provide a justification for each "tourist sight" their group selects. These justifications must refer to the scientific importance of each site (at the level of an introductory course for nonscience majors) and not just to its aesthetic value. In other words, you can't just say that the Ring Nebula is a destination because it's beautiful or because it reminds the honeymoon couple of the rings they just exchanged. Students have to explain about the importance of planetary nebulae as a stage in the evolution of low-mass stars. Since I do this activity with my classes toward the end of the quarter, such discussion also serves as a review for the final examination in the course. In the ten years or so that I have assigned this lab, it has been one of the most successful ones among the twenty or so labs I have tried. Student groups spend a lot of time discussing and debating before even starting to fill out the answer sheet and report that the exercise has helped them clarify concepts and understand better what topics they need to review before the end of the course.

The 10 Tourist Wonders of the Universe Notes for Instructors (PDF, 100 K)
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The 10 Tourist Wonders of the Universe Student Sheets (PDF, 93 K)
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Sample Answer Sheet for The 10 Tourist Wonders of the Universe (PDF, 123 K)
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Universe Tourist Sights Activity w_Examples (PDF, 148 K)
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