Thursday, July 15, 2010

Curriculum: Home School Astronomy

Last weekend at the Northern VA Homeschool convention I met a new vendor: Home School Astronomy. The author, Tony Ceraso, is a Christian amateur astronomer and this was his very first show. He has put together a fairly simple package that some of you might be interested in. Here are a few highlights:

1. The course is put together in modules according to topic (the Moon, gas giants, ice planets, etc.). Each module consists of one lesson and costs $9.95. The files will be sent to buyers via email. For an additional $2, they'll send you a CD-rom with a hard copy of the paper booklet and a Powerpoint presentation. This doesn't sound too expensive until you start adding up the modules. Ten lessons would be about $100. That's a lot for only about a third of a year's worth of curriculum. Maybe Tony will introduce a bundle price at some point.

Tony gave me a free sample of two of the modules. I chose "Far" and "The Milky Way and Other Galaxies" to review. (In the interest of full disclosure, I requested these samples and volunteered to write the review. No compensation other than the free samples was received.)

2. The format of the program is straightforward. Each lesson consists of a script the parent/teacher reads aloud while going through the Powerpoint presentation. Each slide corresponds with a short paragraph that could potentially be rephrased by the parent to the child's level of comprehension.

For example, the student would view this image...


...while the parent reads this script.
  • Pluto. 4 Billion miles from the earth and only half the distance to the edge of the solar system where the sun’s influence ends (heliopause).
  • The trip at shuttle speed takes 27 years – 54 round trip
  • That’s still within the span of human life.
3. The curriculum doesn't contain any religious content. It's simply a straightforward presentation of the data. Because of this, the information is accurate and space bodies are explained as being millions and billions of light-years away. It also avoids the usual young-earth problems related to light travel time and cosmology.

Because the curriculum doesn't include any specific Christian content, you'll need to provide your own integration. I would recommend watching Journey Toward Creation as an appropriate supplement. (You'll have to use your judgment about whether the students themselves may benefit from watching the video or whether you can just watch it and then relay the information to the students verbally.)

4. This program would probably be appropriate for elementary age students, like second through fifth grade. You might be able to go a little higher or lower depending on the student's ability. It will introduce them to the basic concepts and terms of astronomy, but wouldn't be in depth enough for a high school course.

5. The author told me he plans to continue releasing new modules in the coming months.

6. The curriculum does not include any assessments. It does include suggestions for "across the curriculum" activities that correspond to the lesson. For the purposes of reinforcement, I think you would need to supplement this program with some additional activities. Personally, I like the Evan-Moor series of workbooks (see Exploring Space).

I'm not sure how much knowledge Tony has about the young-earth/old-earth controversy. Tony did tell me that he's a Christian. I think he must be aware of the issues at least a little bit because he seems to be steering clear of "controversial" topics like big bang cosmology (see my article on page 19, "Is the Big Bang Biblical?"), which I think is a little unfortunate. This could provide a wonderful way to introduce kids to the compatibility between science and the Bible, especially given the paucity of Christian alternatives to young-earth creationism that are available (none?). That being said, I do empathize with the author's desire to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible.

Astronomy is an often-neglected area of science study. Home School Astronomy provides a good way to introduce the major concepts in a simple and straightforward way. The booth certainly captured the attention of all the kids walking by at the show last weekend. They loved the space images playing via Tony's Powerpoint. I want to wish Tony and his crew the best of luck as he continues to develop his program.

2 comments:

Tony said...

I must admit, it is scary to be reviewed (it's my first one). I appreciate Krista's straightforward review of the lessons. She writes like she talks - clearly and succinctly. We stared at each other for two days as our booths were right across from each other, so I will never forget what she looks like. Hopefully she'll be able to forget what I look like.

Tony Ceraso
www.HomeSchoolAstronomy.com

Tony said...

I must admit, it is scary to be reviewed (it's my first one). I appreciate Krista's straightforward review of the lessons. She writes like she talks - clearly and succinctly. We stared at each other for two days as our booths were right across from each other, so I will never forget what she looks like. Hopefully she'll be able to forget what I look like.

Tony Ceraso
www.HomeSchoolAstronomy.com