Class Activities for Introductory Astronomy Courses


The following activities have been developed for use in introductory astronomy classes for non-majors at Indiana University. You may download them for use in your own classes (and edit them as appropriate for your own use). If you do, please let me know, and also forward any suggestions you have for improvements to

Additional activities can be found on the Teacher Workshop pages below.

A page of suggested student projects and a reading list in introductory astronomy are also available.

What's with the balloons??? - The balloons are used to simulate both the initial mass function and the evolution of a star cluster. In a large class, students select a balloon from a bowl when they enter class. The bowl includes large blue and white balloons, medium yellow balloons, and small orange and red balloons, in numbers consistent with a cluster initial mass function. At the appropriate time in class, students blow up the balloons - the white, blue, orange, and red balloons are tied off, but the yellow balloons are not. Once the star cluster is "formed," it is allowed to age. The blue, and then white, balloons are popped, the yellow ones are allowed to "fizzle," and the orange and red ones hang around "forever." I'll usually show Rob Scharein's HR Diagram Simulator while the cluster evolves, to guide students as to when to pop or fizzle their balloons. (Be sure to have students pick up and dispose of the balloon debris at the end of class!)

Balloons are also a great way to simulate radiative and convective heat transfer when we learn about the interior of the Sun.

This webpage was developed with the help of Jeff Burkett while he was a graduate student in Astronomy at Indiana University.


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