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A Private Universe

Discover why even Ivy League graduates don't really grasp basic science concepts in this video documentary for grade 5-12 educators.

A video documentary on education research for grade 5-12 educators; 1 twenty-minute video program and guide.

With its famous opening scene at a Harvard graduation, this classic of education research brings into sharp focus the dilemma facing all educators: Why don’t even the brightest students truly grasp basic science concepts? This award-winning program traces the problem through interviews with Harvard graduates and their professors, as well as with a bright ninth-grader who has some confused ideas about the orbits of the planets. Equally useful for education methods classes, teacher workshops, and presentations to the public, A Private Universe is an essential resource for science and methodology teachers.

Series Credits

About the Producers and Advisors

Producing Organization:

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Science Education Department, Science Media Group

Project Key Personnel:


Irwin Shapiro, Principal Investigator
Charles Whitney, Co-Principal Investigator
Philip Sadler, Co-Investigator
Matthew Schneps, Project Director


Ara Sahiner, Senior Producer
Wendy Jones, Associate Producer
Tricia Osborne, Editor
Steve Allardi, Assistant Editor

Educational Affairs:

Nancy Finkelstein, Director of Educational Affairs
Melodie Hicks-Arterberry, Education Coordinator


Michael Filisky, Researcher/Writer

Project Advisors:

Linda Alford, Michigan State University
Helen Ansell, Bok Center
Melanie Barron, Cambridge Public Schools, MA
Peggy Charron, Founder, Action for Children’s Television
Helen Corbett, Corbett & Lalli Public Relations
Barbara Costa, WGBH, Boston
Sally Crissman, Shady Hill School
Mary Futrell, George Washington University
Daniel Goroff, Bok Center
Paul Hickman, Belmont High School
Jennifer Hickman, Boston University Academy
Richard Konicek, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Melanie Magisos, University of Arizona, Center for Image Processing
Jose Rivera, Umana/Barnes Middle School
Joel Schneider, Children’s Television Workshop
Eric Stange, Independent Documentary Filmmaker
Meg Watson, Project PALMS, Boston Public Schools
Marianne Wiser, Clark University