I am dissatisfied with the Astronomy course. I don't feel as though I have the resources, knowledge, or students interest to make it a year-long course. In order to not burn through all of the material I have, I've been dragging it out, but the slow pace is making it tremendously boring. It seems as though the timing requires a level of technical depth that is not appropriate for a high school level course.
So I started thinking. (A dangerous pastime, I know.)
I spoke with one of my colleagues about exactly this problem and he said something that struck me.
"I don't want to teach a boring class. If it's boring, I find a way to change it."
It seems like an obvious statement, but how many teachers (including myself) find themselves thinking about certain classes or topics as boring and something to get through.
We spoke further and start discussing how to change the class for the future. The main issue for me is the length of the course. I don't have the ability to make it a semester course and the district won't do that as it will mess up the master schedule.
Other astronomy teachers with whom I've spoken have told me that they teach astronomy for half of the year with the other half being used for a related course. Most common is teachers who cover geology in the first semester and astronomy in the second.
While I'm not REALLY qualified to teach astronomy, I'm even less qualified to teach geology. I also have no interest in doing so. This idea, however, had me thinking about what I could do with the second half of the year if I were to condense the astronomy curriculum into the first half.
My colleague and I came up with 2 ideas that I love!
1) Astronomy and Big History
We teach American History, European History, etc., but rarely do we have students examine their place, and the place of humanity, in the grand scheme of the universe. Big History is an examination of the driving forces for the past 13.8 billion years, what it means to be human and how to move forward with that knowledge.
There are TONS of resources for this type of course available online from the Big History Project. I heard a piece on NPR about it and it sounded amazing.
2) Astronomy and Science Fiction
The second half of the year would be dedicated to reading, analyzing and discussing pivotal science fiction novels and movies. The primary focus would be to examine these works of fiction through the lens of scientific reality. The class would tackle books such as From The Earth To The Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Martian, discussing the predictive power of science fiction and the use of narrative and science to cover questions of education, psychology and social issues.
My district has been pushing very heavily in the direction of content literacy and cross-curricular lessons. I think I can sell both of these courses to the principals and the school board under those umbrellas.
So now I'll begin the process of proposing a course for next year and hoping that I'll be teaching it.