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Impact II: Poetry of the Universe

HOW IT WORKS
Students begin by accessing their prior knowledge about space and progress to understanding the dynamics of our own solar system. Energy cycles that include the nuclear chemistry of stars and the atmospheres of the planets are discussed. Computer models are used to test hypotheses about the balance of gravity and motion. The Big Bang Theory is explored as students develop their own creation theories based on scientific evidence about the universe. A brief discussion of the differences between Newton’s ideas and Einstein’s relativity helps to frame the debate on whether or not humans will travel through time. Students also look at the historical impact of scientific innovation in order to question whether humans should pursue time travel. Independent Internet research is a vital component of their time-travel research. Finally, students bring their ideas about the universe together in a poster that has a thesis exploring the connection between the universe and poetry. 

THE STUDENTS
Approximately seventy-five high school seniors participated in this program and another eighty took part in previous incarnations. Elements were also used with a total of 100 ninth-grade students last year. Students generally have had Internet experience but little exposure to simulation applications such as the one used here to model gravitational interactions. This year’s classes had 20-25 students and met every day for 55-minute periods. Time was spent almost exclusively in the classroom, although the work with the gravity simulation was done in the computer lab. This might be difficult to adapt to non-secondary-school classes, but similar work with ninth and eleventh grade physics students has been successful. The classes contained a fair member of ESL/ELL students that required various forms of instruction and assessment. Both written and oral communications were options and, because the program was mostly conceptual, ideas were best represented visually. As often as possible, graphic organizers were used to help direct learning in a structured manner. The major assessments for the unit included different facets from creative writing to group work to visual art (collage, drawing, etc.) to accommodate different learning styles.

THE STAFF 
Kevin Mialky is in his eighth year teaching high school science and his second year as department chairperson. Poetry of the Universe began in the summer of 1999 when he participated in the Klingenstein Summer Institute through Teachers College. He ha  been using elements of the program for the past three years. He has also led professional development workshops for his schools and the Board of Education focusing on using rubrics in science assessment. The only assistance required was having the Network Administrator/Computer Teacher grant students access to the gravity simulation program. 

WHAT YOU NEED
As previously mentioned, a few basic cosmology books will be sufficient. If this is not an option, much of this can be found on the Internet. Stephen Hawking’s books and Robert Osserman’s Poetry of the Universe are solid, and the PBS series Stephen Hawking’s Universe is helpful. Internet access is necessary, although the teacher can find most of the relevant information to distribute to students if needed. A gravity simulation program (such as the Gravitator program for the Mac) is also useful but not necessary. This and other computer models can be downloaded for free on the Internet.

OVERALL VALUE 
Who hasn’t looked into the night sky and wondered what was going on out there? Poetry of  the Universe encourages students to feel the creativity and relevance of science while meeting basic performance standards. It also pushes students to look for unexpected answers in the abstract world of our universe and provides a balance to experiments that measure the concrete natural surroundings. 

CURRICULUM AREAS
Science 
Technology

GRADES
Grade 9-12

MORE INFORMATION

Kevin Mialky
Bread & Roses Integrated
Arts High School
6 Edgecombe Avenue
New York, NY 10030
Phone: (212) 926-4152
Kmialky@ix.netcom.com
Principal
Carol Foresta

IMPACT II 
Catalog 2002-2003
(pdf file: requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

 

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