Friday, August 2, 2013

Dark, Massive Asteroid...

(started this post sometime in May, didn't finish til just now)

So I see this headline on latimes.com this morning:

"Dark, massive asteroid to fly by Earth on May 31st."

And immediately I'm asking questions:

How close will it be?  Will I be able to see it?  How do they know when it's going to fly by Earth?  How big is the asteroid?  Is Bruce Willis going to have to save us?

At this point I haven't even read the article yet.  I click on it and read, and now I've got more questions:

How did they figure out that the asteroid is 1.7 miles long?  How do they know it's orbital path?  If one theory is that it flew close enough to the sun to torch it but not destroy it, how close was that?  How can they tell it will be 3.6 million miles away from us?  Radio antennas are used to view the asteroid; how do those work?

8-10 questions, just like that.  What if we asked our students to read the title of the article and list all the questions that come to mind?  We could then have them read the article and list all the questions that come to mind.  Then spend the next month at school utilizing all your "instructional time" learning the answers to those questions.  Use the Internet.  Use your teachers.  Use the library.  Use each other.  Call the Jet Propulsion Lab and ask them questions.  Call my buddy who is an Assistant Principal at La Canada High School where students have parents who work at JPL and ask him if he knows anyone who can help.  Just ask.  And find out.

What if they blogged about the process along the way?  Captured video?  Created a documentary?  What if they presented the math they learned to their classmates?  What if they summarized the process and submitted that summary as an assessment?

What if school were like that?


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