University of Alberta observatory domes


"Thank you so much for visiting our class on Friday! The kids loved it...they thought it was pretty cool to meet a "real" Astronomer! Thanks again, Janine"

Updated February 14, 2004

The Sky Scan Science Awareness Project is particularly suited to the new Grade 9 Science curriculum, which was implemented on an optional basis in September 2002, and starts province-wide in September 2003. The new curriculum features a major unit entitled Space Exploration, including a sub-topic on radio astronomy. To quote the Teacher's Resource from one of the two authorized texts, "the subject matter of Topic 5 makes it more difficult to keep students doing hands-on experiments."

Sky Scan provides a solution to this problem. We offer a unique opportunity for students to conduct a technology-based program of data collection and analysis in the field of radio astronomy, specifically through the detection of meteors using simple and inexpensive equipment in a classroom setting.

Details of the curriculum are provided here.

Our principle connection is with the unit on Space Exploration (pp.29-32), which includes the following key concepts:

  1. technologies for space exploration and observation;
  2. reference frames for describing position and motion in space;
  3. satellites and orbits;
  4. distribution of matter through space;
  5. composition and characteristics of bodies in space;
  6. life-support technologies;
  7. communication technologies.

The Sky Scan project will contribute learning opportunities to all but #6. There are direct applications to many of the concepts listed under the various Outcomes categories. A few examples are cited below:

Students will:

investigate predictions about the motion alignment and collision of bodies in space, and critically examine the evidence on which they are based (e.g. identify uncertainties in predicting and tracking meteor showers);
describe and interpret the science of optical and radio telescopes, space probes and remote sensing technologies;
conduct investigations into the relationships between and among observations, and gather and record qualitative and quantitative data;
work cooperatively with team members to develop and carry out a plan, and troubleshoot problems as they arise.

Also, there are peripheral connections to three of the other four main units, namely:

Unit B: Matter and Chemical Change,

Unit C: Environmental Chemistry, and particularly

Unit D: Electrical Principles and Technologies. The Sky Scan project would therefore serve to tie together a variety of principles taught throughout the year.

Meteor showers do follow their own particular schedules, however. The greatest opportunity for heavy meteor activity will occur around November 19, with prospects for a Leonid meteor storm to equal or even exceed that of 2001. Teachers wishing to take advantage of this opportunity would need to rearrange the order in which the various units are delivered.

Other meteor shower opportunities arise with the Orionids in late October, the Geminids in mid-December, and the intriguing Arietid shower in early June. This is the heaviest of the daytime showers, as Earth encounters meteoroid particles on that part of their orbit which is outbound from the Sun. These can only be detected by radio, perhaps "live" in class time. We will be conducting extensive testing in June 2002 to determine the levels of detectable activity of this event. The timing of this shower would be perfect for the prescribed layout of the curriculum, and the connections to other units could provide opportunities for review.

Copyright 1999-2015 by Sky Scan, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the 

Edmonton Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Department of Physics (University of Alberta)

and the

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

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