Curriculum : an Introduction


Introduction to TFG’s Astronomy Curriculum with E-learning

Over the past decade, astronomy has seen quite important progress because of the technological advances in astronomical satellites and observation techniques. Research results and findings are stored in the cloud data banks on the Internet, free to be downloaded and utilized. Inspired by these breakthroughs in astronomy, our team, as a participating school of “High Scope Project II,” has worked out a feasible curriculum and lesson plans. The teachers of different subjects at Taipei First Girls’ Senior High School, including physics, chemistry, earth science, computer science, mathematics, and English, co-operated to design the astronomy-themed curriculum that features the application of spectrum. To finish such a project, we enlisted the assistance of the professors at the Institute of Astronomy of National Tsing Hua University, the Graduate Institute of Science Education of National Taiwan Normal University, and the Graduate Institute of Library, Information and Archival Studies of National Chenchi University. We have already finished the designing of the four modules in the curriculum. Each module is four hours long, with emphasis not only on theories, but also on practice; information technology is incorporated into this curriculum, in the hope that students will be able to acquire analysis skills and apply what they have learned to other scientific projects. Although the content of the curriculum involves cutting-edge technologies and latest scientific findings and results, it only takes basic information infrastructure and equipment to implement the courses. As a result, the implementation of the curriculum can be readily carried out in high schools without being affected by factors such as the school size or location. Furthermore, the design of the curriculum allows the teacher to use the modules flexibly, depending on his or her need and class time. For example, the modules can be taught separately; or, with all the four modules conducted altogether, the curriculum can serve as a preliminary course for high school astronomy research projects.



 We utilizeseveral teaching platforms on the Web, free online astronomical data banks, such as SDSS, Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and free software to analyze and synthesize data (See the following chart). The curriculum is inquiry-oriented, with a marked emphasis on hands-on experience, which allows the students numerous opportunities to do experiments and discuss for themselves. Each module can be conducted individually in the classes of each subject, or be merged to form a preliminary training course for astronomy research projects. Although the content of the curriculum involves cutting-edge technologies and latest scientific findings and results, it only takes basic information infrastructure and equipment to implement the courses. Thus, the curriculum can be readily applied in every school.


Software or Data Bank


Sloan Digital Sky Survey


The SDSS is one of the most ambitious and influential sky surveys. Its data have been released to the general public.

Galaxy Zoo

It is an online astronomy project to assist in the morphological classification of large numbers of galaxies.

SAO Image DS9

It is an astronomical imaging and data visualization application


It is an interactive graphical viewer and editor for tabular data

VIREO project

The laboratory exercises that illustrate modern astronomical techniques using digital data and color images.


It is a fast multi-track audio editor and recorder.


It is a free video analysis and modeling tool to be used in physics education.

The curriculum has been implemented at Taipei First Girls’ High School for more than two years and an achievements conference was held on May 29th, 2013. The statistics about the participating students and classes are as follows : 

 Number of Participating Classes(till January,2014)

Participating Class

Module 1

Module 2

Module 3

Module 4


Freshmen’s Elective Class






Junior Class of Science





Junior Class of Humanities












Note: Freshmen’s Elective classes include “High Scope Class,” and two elective classes of physics (“Let’s Have Fun in Physics” and “Exploration of Physics.”)

                                                           Number of Participating Students in Various Activities(till July, 2014)



Pilot Teaching of the Modules


Astronomy Research Project


Summer Session Courses in Astronomy



 Introduction to Each Module

Module 1: Basics of the Spectrum

   The module aims to familiarize the students with the characteristics of light and the basic concepts about the spectrum. This module consists of three parts:

1. Exploration of the Spectrum:

We try to trigger the student’s interest in the spectrum by inviting them to observe the flame colors of different gases. Besides, with a triangular prism, students can observe and understand the so-called dispersion—as the angle of refraction varies in a medium, lights of different colors will disperse accordingly. The teacher also introduces the spectrum of hydrogen atoms, explains the differences between a continuous spectrum and a non-continuous one, and further illustrates that various electromagnetic wave bands are a good tool to observe and understand the universe.

2. Interference and Diffraction of Light:

    In addition to dispersion, students also observe the diffraction of light with the help of optical grating filters. Through the dual-slot interference experiment and the superposition of water waves, the teacher can introduce to students the constructive interference, destructive interference, and the interference of light waves. The teacher explains again the experiment results about diffraction of light.

3. Making of a Spectrometer:

    The teacher illustrates that diffraction is to split light beams of different colors into different areas. Besides explaining the principle of diffraction, the teacher further demonstrates how to make a spectrometer with a CD and a small cardboard box, and takes pictures of the spectrum images from various light sources with a digital camera. Plus, students can use Tracker to garner statistical data about light strength and waves of the spectra in the pictures. Then, students can use Excel to synthesize the statistical data and produce graphs of the spectra. 


 Module 2: Observation Tools

  Module 2 aims to help students to understand the basic rationales of astronomical observation through “question and discussion” sessions. The teacher explains the functions and limitations of astronomical observation tools. Meanwhile, students can utilize online astronomical data banks and download free observational data; also, they can use free astronomical analysis software to compare the imaging differences observed at various wavelengths. Students can even synthesize photos taken at various wavelengths, in order to learn more about celestial bodies.

Module 2 is divided into the following six parts: 1. Universe Observed at Multi-wavelengths; 2. Colors of Stars in the SDSS; 3. Color Index of Stars; 4. Three-color Imaging Synthesis of Celestial Bodies; 5. Basic Principles for Observation and Measurement with an Optical Telescope; 6. Limitations on Astronomical Observation. Each part is one hour long, and is detailed as follows:        

1.Universe Observed at Multi-wavelengths:

 The teacher can motivate the students with beautiful astronomical pictures taken at various wavelengths; students have to observe the differences in images taken at different wavelengths. Students make use of a piece of software to analyze how the temperature plays a role in affecting the curves of black-body radiation. At the end of the class, the teacher introduces “Galaxy Zoo” and “SDSS” to students.

2. Colors of Stars in the SDSS:

 Students, guided by the teacher, use the latest data downloaded from online astronomical observation data banks, and use Excel to synthesize all the information such as magnitudes of stars at various wavelengths to draw SED graphs. Besides, according to the graphs they draw, students have to answer questions concerning magnitudes and black-body radiation curves. By using Excel, they can do calculation to understand the connection between the Color Index data and temperatures.

3. Color Index of Stars:

 Students discuss the questions on the worksheet for this unit. The teacher further explains the phenomenon that the magnitude of a star varies as it is observed at various wavelengths. The graphs they draw can be used as the graph of spectral energy distribution of a star. By referring to the definition of color index on the worksheet, students use Excel to calculate the color index of a star and try to explain in their own words the concept and meaning of color index data they get.

4. Three-color Imaging Synthesis of Celestial Bodies:

 Students learn to understand the basic functions of the software, DS9, and use it to analyze astronomical photos. They use it tosynthesize photos of stars at various wavelengths and collect related data.

5. Basic Principles for Observation and Measurement with an Optical Telescope

 The teacher explains the principles and three major functions of an astronomical telescope. Also, the teacher illuminates the connection between the quality of images and the telescope. 

6. Limitation on Astronomical Observation:

 The teacher explains the deterring factors for on-the-ground observation, and further illuminates how the environment of the outer space influences the observation with an astronomical telescope. Students should form groups to read data, discuss with each other, summarize what they’ve read about, analyze and compare the data collected with optical and infrared telescopes. Finally, the teacher explains why it is necessary to use telescopes of various wavelengths and share various strategies for observation.


Module 3  Stellar Evolution

This module aims to make students understand the characteristics of various spectra and their application to astronomy. Students need to draw the H-R diagrams according to the observation data they collect of stars. Based on the diagrams, they can explore the characteristics and the process of stellar evolution of the star, and try to understand the connection between nuclear fusion and the life of a star. This module is composed of three parts: 1. Spectrum of the Sun; 2. Census of Stars—the Drawing and Analysis of the H-R Diagram; 3. Nuclear Fusion and the Stellar Evolution of a Star. Each part is two hours long and they are detailed as follows

1. The Spectrum of the Sun:

 Students explore the dark-line phenomenon of the sunlight, and learn to operate the spectrometer to observe spectra of lights from different sources. The teacher explains the ideas about the spectrum through experiments he or she conducts. Students will be further guided to find the co-relation between the absorption line of the sunlight and the emission line of an atom. Finally, students use Excel to process the data about spectra and finish the comparing of the dark lines of the sun with atomic spectra.

2. Census of the Stars—the Drawing and Analysis of the H-R Diagram

The teacher draws the Hipparcos catalogues to show the characteristics of stars. Meanwhile, students are guided to think about how to categorize stars. They will also learn to use TOPCAT to draw graphs and be taught how to draw H-R diagrams based on the data about stars they acquire. Furthermore, they will need to pick and compare the graphs of different stars with different physical characteristics. 

3. Nuclear Fusion and the Evolution of A Star:

 The teacher helps students review and understand the information gathered from the sun’s dark-line spectrum, and lead them to understand that many elements of the periodic table are made through nuclear fusion. The teacher uses building blocks to explain to students that it is not possible for nuclear fusion to occur and last forever. The H-R diagram reflects every stage of stellar evolution, and with it, students can understand the relationship between nuclear fusion and stellar evolution.


Module 4 Cosmology

This module aims to make students understand various ways to measure the universe. Students need to read English pop science articles to have a better understanding of the universe; they can have a glimpse of the latest trends in cosmology and those unanswered questions in the field. The module consists of three parts: 1. Measuring the Universe; 2. Simulation Observatories & the Size of the Universe; 3. Brief Introduction to Modern Cosmology. Each part is two hours long. The content is detailed as follows:

1. Measuring the Universe:

 The teacher introduces common units of distance measurement in astronomy: the astronomical unit, light year, parsec, and explains the methods to measure the distance between celestial bodies: (1) parallax method (2) spectrophotometry (3) spectroscopic parallax method. Students apply parallax and spectrophotometry to measure the distances between LED lamps, and use spectroscopic parallax method to measure the distances between celestial bodies. This way, they can know which method to apply for different purposes.

2. Simulation Observatories and the Size of the Universe:

 The teacher introduces and demonstrates how to use the simulation software—Project CLEA and operate a visual observatory. Student can know the way to operate a simulation observatory and experience the whole procedure. They will be guided to collect the spectra of the target celestial bodies by using a mock spectrometer, and discuss the Doppler effect and its application to astronomy. Furthermore, they will need to draw graphs based on the data they collect and analyze the graphs. At the end of the class, the teacher will introduce present-day cosmology to the students as a wrap-up activity.

3. Brief Introduction to Modern Cosmology:

Students read popular scientific English articles, and try to grasp the meanings of certain key words through the context. They also need to finish some reading tasks. One task requires students to draw the structure of the universe based on the article they read. By reading these articles, students can better understand cosmology and realize why scientists conclude that the universe is expanding. Because of this course, students can understand the differences between theoretical hypotheses and the data collected through empirical observation. What’s more important, students will be able to formulate their views on the universe in a right way.





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