University of Wyoming
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Expanding minds through explorations of our expanding universe

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posted on 2022-03-11, 17:52 authored by Jessica Sutter
Science is the observation of patterns inherent in the universe, composing the language by which the natural world communicates. To provide non-STEM students a meaningful experience of science, I developed a series of engaging, investigative activities through which students in an introductory astronomy course act as scientists to explore the world they inhabit. These activities focus on having students use real data they gather, or data gathered from academic journals and databases, to reach important conclusions about the nature of our universe. As an example, one activity focuses on using Type Ia supernova magnitudes to measure the accelerating expansion of the universe and is the focus of this paper. By including this and other similar activities throughout the course, the students engage in scientific thinking in a fun and exciting way. To evaluate the success of these activities, students were asked an open-ended experimental design question at the start and end of the course. The growth shown by the 11 students in the six-week summer class is an indicator that the inclusion of these activities helped these students learn about the tools available to astronomers, while also facilitating an environment to foster scientific thinking.

This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and AIP Publishing. This article appeared in The Physics Teacher 58, 520-521 (2020) and may be found at


Expanding minds through explorations of our expanding universe


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AIP Publishing

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The Physics Teacher


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  • Astronomy - ASTR
  • Education - EDUC
  • Physics - PHYS