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Session 5 - Education.
Display session, Monday, January 13
Metropolitan Ballroom,

[5.04] Using Science-Fiction to Teach General Education Astronomy

D. R. DeGraff (Alfred U.)

There are two groups of people for whom astronomical objects are not distant abstractions: Astronomers and Science-Fiction Writers. In the Fall Semester of 1995 I started integrating Science-Fiction in my general education Intro Astronomy course to familiarize students with astronomical concepts in a way that cannot be done with standard textbooks. Astronomy: The Evolving Universe by Michael Zelik was supplemented by Ben Bovašs novel Mars, and a dozen short stories from various sources, chosen for their portrayal of astronomical concepts. Students were evaluated on papers they wrote and a final exam. The papers were designed for the students to imagine themselves in a position of an explorer, to experience the universe for themselves. The final exam was a combination of short answer questions about astronomical concepts and essay questions similar in scope to the papers.

The student wrote thorough and imaginative papers. While I did not have a control group to give the exam to, performance on the Final exam seemed good, certainly no worse than the years before. Most importantly, about half the students said that they would continue to read Science Fiction.

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