Reflection: Student Led Inquiry Extrasolar Planets: Finding What We Can't See - Section 3: Observing Orbital Motions with Simulator


I have determined that it is important for students to work in groups AND that I am circulating the room clearing up misconceptions as I go. It is surprising to me how many students are confused by what the PhET simulator is showing. Some think that the "sun and planet" are showing two stars while others believe that the lines left on the simulator are actually there in space. It is important to ask students to explain what they think they are seeing as I go around the room. 

On the worksheet, I asked students to look at the binary star system and asked if there had to be any thing at the center for them to orbit around. Looking at the student work, most students answered no. But then they contradict themselves with the very next questions by saying that there must be something at the center of our galaxy which the billions of stars orbit around. It is clear to me that this is an area of inquiry that students should explore but we don't have the time to look at here. In the future, I will remove these questions from the worksheet and create another lesson that focuses on these questions. 

  Student Led Inquiry: Student work
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Extrasolar Planets: Finding What We Can't See

Unit 2: Forces in Two Dimensions
Lesson 16 of 16

Objective: Students use a simulator to determine how astronomers find extra-solar planets.

Big Idea: Extra-solar planets are too distant and dim to see with a telescope, yet over 1000 have been discovered because of their affect and interaction with their companion star.

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