2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

Astronomy and Cosmologies


Spring 2013 quarter

Rebecca Chamberlain literature, writing, yoga , Richard Miles
Fields of Study
astronomy, cultural studies, history, mathematics, philosophy and physics
Preparatory for studies or careers in
astronomy, natural sciences, history and philosophy of science, and education.
Facility with algebra (e.g. good work in Algebra 2). Good reading, writing and thinking skills. Willingness to work in teams and to use computers for web-based assignments and information. There is no prerequisite in physics.

This interdisciplinary program will combine science and humanities, as we learn beginning to intermediate astronomy through lectures, discussions, interactive workshops, and observation. We will use naked eyes, binoculars, and telescopes. We will learn about the evolution and structure of our universe and celestial bodies. How are stars born and why do they shine? How do stars die, and how can they contribute to new life? How do we know there is dark matter? How do we know that the universe is expanding - and even accelerating? What evidence is there for the Big Bang? We will study roles of science and of storytelling in human searches for understanding and meaning.

How have people across cultures and throughout history understood, modeled, and ordered the universe they perceive? From sacred stories to physics-based astronomy, we will explore a variety of cosmological concepts in science, literature, mythology, philosophy, history and/or archaeoastronomy. We will use scientific methods and other inquiry-based learning strategies that engage the imagination. Through readings, lectures, films, workshops, and discussions, participants will deepen their understanding of astronomy, and they will refine their understanding of the role that cosmology plays in our lives through the stories we tell, the observations we make, and the questions we ask. We will develop skills and appreciation for the ways we find our place in the universe through stories and science, imagination and intellect, qualitative and quantitative processes. Finally we will ask, how does our understanding of astronomy and cosmologies influence our understanding of sustainability and the quality of life on Earth?

We will work together as a learning community, in large and small groups. We will read and discuss science texts and do quantitative workshops and homework. Students will build and take home astronomical tools such as spectrometers and position finders. Students will analyze literary works related to astronomy and cosmology, and will develop an original piece of writing, either fiction or non-fiction. We will also share star stories from different cultures. Student teams will meet for pre-seminar discussions and assignments and will write short essays and responses to peers' essays. Research teams will explore questions of personal interest through observations, readings and calculations; and students will share their findings through presentations to classmates and the community. Students are invited to help organize observation field trips to eastern Washington or other regions with clearer skies.

Academic Website
Online Learning
Hybrid Online Learning 25 - 49% Delivered Online
Greener Store
Required Fees
$60 for use of a spectrometer, solar motion demonstrator, and small telescope.
Special Expenses
Students must provide binoculars and tripod (estimated cost $200-300); optional field trip (up to $300)
May be offered again in
Offered During
Day and Evening

Program Revisions

Date Revision
March 15th, 2013 This program will now accept enrollment without signature. Please be sure to review the prerequisites.
February 20th, 2013 Fee has been increased to $60.
January 29th, 2013 Rebecca Chamberlain has joined the teaching team; enrollments have been increased.