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Project Star: The Universe in Your Hands.

Harold P. Coyle and others. (Kendall Hunt Publishing Co., 1992). 380 pages. ISBN 0-8403-7715-0. $24.95. A teacher's guide, which includes two one-hour video-tapes, is also available.

THIS WORK, the culmination of the efforts of Project STAR (Science Teaching through its Astronomical Roots), does indeed bring the universe into your hands. As a secondary school textbook, it follows a decidedly fresh approach to presenting information to students. The method, actually the authors' philosophy, is that students better grasp scientific concepts by conducting activities that involve making observations and taking measurements. Rather than memorizing facts or dealing with many concepts superficially, the authors suggest that by learning a few fundamentals at a time, related facts can be more fully understood. Then, through experimental work students can test the accuracy of their concepts of the world around us.

The instructional technique is consistent throughout the book. Each chapter opens with some questions concerning what the student may think about a particular situation. This leads directly into activities that focus on a single concept, such as the apparent size of the Moon near the horizon compared with the Moon higher in the sky. Activities are often followed by suggestions for continued study. Some require additional materials (a simple telescope or spectrometer, for example). Kits for these accessories were developed by Project STAR and are commercially available from Learning Technologies, Inc.

Activities in each chapter are simple yet very powerful in what they offer to the student. For example, in one series of projects the student determines the wattage and apparent magnitude of various stars. By constructing a simple photometer the student can make comparisons between the light from a 200-watt bulb and the Sun, thereby calculating the Sun's wattage. In a follow-up activity the student uses an optical fiber and a flashlight to construct a device to determine the apparent brightness of stars. Collected data is then transferred to a graph to deduce stellar distances.

A more detailed examination of the particular concepts provides the appropriate closure on each set of activities. The wrap-up consists of supplementary information pertinent to the topic, including boxes of additional material or anecdotal accounts of key past and present scientists. Each chapter concludes with a well-written summary, homework problems, self-test questions, and exercises.

The illustrations are unglorified but adequate. One puzzling pair, however, are in a "what's wrong with these pictures?" problem. The diagrams focus on the Moon's phases and motion in the sky; however, in both illustrations, there is a "star" within the crescent shape of the Moon. I assume that this is a printing problem rather than part of the exercise.

So how does the book succeed in offering what the title suggests? Having the students conduct the activities makes the learning process truly meaningful -- by giving students the resources to discover through their own efforts and allowing them to draw conclusions relevant to their preconceived ideas.

The book belongs in any science classroom where concepts relating to Earth and space science are taught. The authors offer a hands-on approach that will strengthen students' comprehension, validate their concepts of the physical universe surrounding them, and serve as a valuable resource for suggesting additional science projects. I definitely recommend this book.

Riddle is planetarium director for the school district of Kansas City, Missouri, and director of Project Starwalk, a science curriculum for third through sixth grades.
COPYRIGHT 1993 All rights reserved. This copyrighted material is duplicated by arrangement with Gale and may not be redistributed in any form without written permission from Sky & Telescope Media, LLC.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Riddle, Bob
Publication:Sky & Telescope
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Words:560
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