Planets, Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe

Part 1: Topic, Audience, & Project Type


At the end of this project, you should have a written report that provides enough detail for you and your classmates to teach the content area that you have chosen. To begin to focus your project, I would like you to concentrate on these three areas:

  1. Topic
  2. Audience
  3. Project Type

Select a topic

Part of your grade will depend on how relevant your topic is to the content you have studied in this course. I would like you to choose a topic area that fits broadly into planets, stars, galaxies, and the Universe. You can choose a topic that we studied in depth, one that we covered briefly and you would like to study further, or one that we skipped, but still falls into the broad categories we studied.

Examples include:

  • Stellar evolution: The proposed activity presents the stellar evolution of a Sun-like star in an innovative manner that is superior in some ways to the way we looked at it in this course.
  • Black holes: The proposed activity presents the relativistic effects one would experience when encountering a black hole in more depth than it is presented in a previous lesson.
  • The nature of blue stragglers: The proposed activity presents the stellar evolution of the type of stars known as blue stragglers, which are similar to, but different from any we studied in our lessons.

An example of a topic that I would consider not relevant to the course for this project is something related directly to human spaceflight in Earth orbit. For example, if you propose to focus your project on the growth of vegetables in the International Space Station to feed the astronauts, I would recommend you choose differently. However, if you want to talk about the nature of orbits and celestial mechanics by an investigation of how rockets get humans to the Moon and back, that is much more relevant and a good option for our project.  If you are unsure if I would consider your topic relevant, please contact me for early feedback prior to submitting your work for Part 1.

Identify the audience

You should also focus your project to the audience. You are welcome to choose the audience you would like to work with, for example, you might choose:

  • One class of 6th-grade students: If you teach 6th graders, you should certainly create a project that will work for you to teach your students!
  • High school physics classes: You can create a project that is appropriate for students in high school physics classes, which may be a mix of ages of students, depending on the school.
  • Informal education: Perhaps you work with out of school groups, such as scout troops, 4-H clubs, or robotics clubs. You can choose to design a project for these mixed age clubs that have different requirements and expectations than a formal classroom.

Choose a project type

In the overview, I specified that you could choose to create one of the following project types:

  1. An inquiry-based activity
  2. A laboratory exercise, or
  3. A learning object.

Clearly, these are not well-defined, non-overlapping categories, but again, for example, I consider the following:

  • Inquiry-based activity: Kinesthetic Astronomy teaches the 3D Sun / Earth orbital relationship by having students act out the Earth's orbit kinesthetically.
  • Laboratory exercise: The SDSS HR Diagram lab we completed has students create HR diagrams using real astronomical data.
  • Learning object: The ClassAction Phases of the Moon module is a set of learning objects that teachers can use to supplement classroom instruction on the phases of the Moon.



NOTE: You will be submitting your work as a single document that is in either Microsoft Word (.doc) or PDF (.pdf) format so I can open it. Try to keep your write-up for Part 1 to a page or a bit more than a page.

  1. Write a single statement that summarizes the topic your project will address (e.g., "My capstone project will follow the stellar evolution of a blue straggler star").
  2. Write a concise description (a paragraph or two) that presents the scientific content you need to cover to address the topic completely.
  3. Describe the audience you will be targeting and write a concise description of how you will focus your project to address the needs of that particular audience.
  4. In your write-up, tell me which option you are choosing, and provide a preliminary description of the outlines of your idea.
  5. Save your work AS A SINGLE DOCUMENT in either a Microsoft Word or PDF file in the following format:

    CapstonePart1_AccessAccountID_LastName.doc (or .pdf).

    For example, student Elvis Aaron Presley's file would be named "CapstonePart1_eap1_presley.doc" - This naming convention is important, as it will help me make sure I match each submission with the right student!

Submit your work

Please submit your work to the Capstone Project - Part 1 dropbox in Canvas by the due date indicated in our course calendar.

Grading criteria

You will not receive a separate grade for Part 1, as you will receive one grade on the overall project. However, I will be providing feedback on Part 1, so you will simply receive a check that I received your Part 1 submission by the deadline, which is typically mid-week during our work on Lesson 9.