Printed from the Annenberg Media Math and Science Project Teachers' Lab at
While "A Private Universe" was designed as a teacher education tool, some teachers have had success showing the video to high school students. Viewing segments of the program could help some students become aware of their own preconceptions. Students have reported that after seeing the video they felt more confidence in their teachers because their teachers understood how they learned.
Testing predictions can be a powerful learning tool. Teachers can also gain insights into students' understanding by paying attention to their predictions.
Before Showing "A Private Universe"
While Showing "A Private Universe"
- Choose one of the following:
- Conduct a class discussion in which students explain their theories for seasonal change and moon phases. Note: You can also use the Five-Question Survey and the Moon Motions Activity with students to find out what their ideas are about the seasonal changes and the moon phases in this Teachers' Lab.
- Have students brainstorm all the possible reasons for seasonal changes and moon phases, no matter how unconventional. Then, have students vote on the most likely explanations.
- Ask students to create and refine concept maps illustrating their ideas about seasonal change and moon phases. Teachers not familiar with concept mapping should refer to "Learning How to Learn" by Novak and Gowin.
After students commit themselves to their explanations for the phenomena, show the beginning of "A Private Universe."
- Stop the video after the initial segment with the Harvard students.
Ask students if anything about the segment surprised them. Some students may be surprised that Harvard graduates "got it wrong." Others may still agree with the Harvard students, missing the point of the segment.
Conduct a discussion in small groups or with the entire class about this point. Why did the Harvard students have such ideas? Why didn't a Harvard education change their ideas? Does being a science major make a difference?
Ask if any students would like to change their opinion about the causes for the seasons. Ask them why?
Have students explain their new ideas, being especially watchful for students who have changed simply because of the authority of the video. Have them explain their new ideas about the changes of the seasons.
- Play the rest of "A Private Universe" for the class.
After Showing "A Private Universe"
Conduct a class discussion about the ideas raised in "A Private Universe." Why did Heather change some of her ideas but not others? Where do our ideas come from?
Ask students to write short essays or freewriting exercises about an instance in which they changed their ideas about something. What factors influenced this change?
Have the class brainstorm a list of metaphors for teachers, students and learning.
Are teachers like tour guides? bosses? coaches? encyclopedias? Are students like guests? workers? explorers? empty jars?
Is learning like getting a fill-up at the service station? going on a journey? inheriting money? growing? building a house?
Have students critique each metaphor as it is proposed, searching for ways in which it does or does not apply to their experience.
This activity is from "A Private Universe" Teacher's Guide, produced by the Science Media Group of the Science Education Department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
© 1994 The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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