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Generating Questions About the Sun and Moon

Student generated questions set the stage for intrinsically motivated student exploration. The nature of the class involves the process of inquiry to frame questions, to generate ideas, and to explore, with the intent of attaining scientific knowledge and understanding. In Physics 111, the students are encouraged to generate questions about the sun and/or the moon that could be addressed through observation. Once the questions have been framed, observations and predictions occur. In time, students make inferences about the “answers” to their questions by pulling the pieces together, discussing, and by making continued predictions and observations.

Common Example Questions:

How does the moon move throughout the day?

  • Students would need to make several hourly observations.

How does the moon move over the course of several days?

  • Students would need to make several observations at the same time over multiple days.

Student Generated Questions

Fall 2011 student:

During small group disussions, my table desparately wanted to answer the question “Does the moon rise and set just like the sun?” In order to find clues to the answer we sought, the four of us determined a schedule to observe the moon periodically every afternoon and night in one hour intervals. After the experiment, we discovered that although the moon did rise and set like the sun, it was changing its rising and setting times throughout the month.

Not only did we answer our question with these observations, but we also made several other observations including the relationship between the angles of the sun in accordance with the moon and the fact that when the moon is waxing the sun is on the right side while the opposite is true for a waning moon.




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