Virtual World Planetarium

Educator Name: Eric Yeloushan
School Name: North Sashabaw Elementary

I would like to create a Virtual World planetarium type environment for our 5th grade Earth in Space and Time Unit. Students will no longer just explain and describe the relative order and scale of the planets, the motion of the planets and moons as they rotate and orbit, and the apparent motion of the constellations, sun, lunar and solar eclipses; they will see it through virtual worlds. NASA website, Discovery Star Planetarium, Star Theater Pro, Uncle Milton Moon, online interactive solar system sites, Google Earth, and use of laptops for Digital story telling and presentations will make this possible.

Instead of reading about our solar system, students will learn through authentic up-to-date online interactive websites. Students will access, analyze and record NASA satellite and observatory data on a daily basis using Space Weather Action Center (S.W.A.C.); use Google Earth to locate the school; access the Hubble Space Telescope for changes in the galaxies; listen to sounds from Jupiter; record daily news on our atmosphere using The Sky; research specific planets; access & record the phases of the moon on a daily basis; chat with SS experts from NASA using QuestChat Information Center; and create multimedia stories using the web-based software Digital Storytelling all in a planetarium setting with the solar system projected on the ceilings and walls of the classroom.

The program, Welcome to our Galaxy, will simulate a virtual world. Concepts will be internalized, not memorized. Concepts will be discovered, not told. Instead of seeing a picture of the Big Dipper in a textbook; the students will use the sky of the planetarium to “see” its position in relation to other starts in the galaxy. Instead of using a model to show the tilt of the axis of the Earth relative to the plane of its yearly orbit around the sun, students will discover the orbit using data collected daily from websites. Through hands on and interactive exploration and practice, and through written expression in journaling, I expect students to demonstrate an understanding of the following areas of Earth in Space & Time:
  1. Seasons result from annual variations in the intensity of sunlight and length of day due to the tilt of the axis of the Earth relative to the plane of its yearly orbit around the sun.
  2. An understanding that the sun is the central and largest body in the solar system and that Earth and other objects in the sky move in a regular and predictable motion around the sun. Understand that those motions explain the day, year, moon phases, eclipses and the appearance of motion of objects across the sky. Understand that gravity is the force that keeps the planets in orbit around the sun and governs motion in the solar system.