Telescopes From the Ground Up

Teacher Page: Overview

Teacher Pages:
Science Background
Lesson Plan
National Standards
Grab Bag
Computer Needs
Back to the Lesson


Description / Overview of the Lesson
How to Prepare for an "Online Exploration"
Process Skills Acquired
Target Audience / Grade Levels
Preparation Time
Execution Time
Field Tested
Last Update

Description / overview of the lesson:

“Telescopes From the Ground Up” traces the history of telescope development and highlights the interplay between technological and scientific advances. In this modular activity, milestones in telescope development are highlighted in the 10 sections called “eras,” with specific examples included in the associated “telescope pages.” The human component is integrated through the biography pages, which provide a glimpse of the inventors and astronomers behind the telescopes. The science of light and telescopes is presented in the section “Get to the Root of It,” which can be used for review, learning the basics, or remediation. Depending on the teacher’s objective, “Get to the Root of It” can be accessed prior to doing the activity and/or while working through the eras and telescope pages.

Students can work through “Telescopes From the Ground Up” independently or in groups. Teachers may choose to have students study a portion of the activity and then share their learning with the class. An activity sheet is available to use as an assessment in which students identify the importance of a series of events in the history of telescopes and then rank them in chronological order.

How to Prepare for an “Online Exploration”

Decide if the activity meets your needs.

  1. Check out the activity ahead of time by working through it as your students will. As you go through the activity, pay attention to the following:
  2. Check out the “Teaching Tips” for the following information.
    • Overview: Serves as a broad, comprehensive summary of the activity, including a description, the concepts covered, prerequisites, and the target audience.
    • Science Background: Provides information about the science behind the activity. It clarifies important concepts used in the activity and contains a message from the scientist who worked with the team to develop it.
    • Lesson Plan: Addresses specific recommendations for using the activities, including learning outcomes, new vocabulary, misconceptions, engagement activities (under the heading procedure/directions), and follow-up activities. Includes suggestions for using the activity in one-computer classrooms and those without computers.
    • National Standards: Provides alignment between the activity and the National Science Education Standards, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Curriculum and Evaluation Standards, and the Project 2061 Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy Standards. Many state and local standards were developed from these so it should be easy to check for correlations.
    • Grab Bag: Provides resources for educators who wish to customize the activity. Includes images from the activity, which can be used to develop your own interactive lesson. Also identifies resources used in the activity and others related to the topic, which can be used by students and educators to do further research.

Before using the activities...

  1. Check out your computers.
  2. Determine a strategy for organizing your students. Options include the following:
  3. Think about how this online activity matches up with teaching materials that are already available to you. These might include:
    • Curriculum guides
    • Textbooks
    • Videos
    • Posters
    • Labs

Preparing students

  1. Share the objectives and the key vocabulary words used in the activity.
  2. Use a large monitor, LCD, or transparencies to give a preview of the activity and to demonstrate how to navigate within it.
  3. Give your students a computer/Web pre-assessment to determine their computer experience and/or competence.
  4. Organize your students in such a way that more experienced users are matched up with less experienced ones.
  5. Try one of the Suggested Engagement Activities, which can be found under Procedure/Directions in the Lesson Plan section of the activity’s Teaching Tips.

While students are doing an activity…

  1. Help individual students navigate through the activity.
  2. Provide options for those who finish the activity early:
    • Have them review the activity again to define key vocabulary words.
    • Have them visit related Web links to conduct additional research.
    • Have them completing some type of assessment activity. A number of these can be found under Follow-up Activities/Extensions in the Lesson Plan section of the activity’s Teaching Tips.

Using the activities without an Internet connection

  1. Order a CD of the activities.
  2. For activity-specific suggestions, consult the Classrooms Without Computers section (in the Lesson Plan section of the activity’s Teaching Tips).
  3. Print the information provided in the Science Background, which might be useful for content reading.
  4. Download the activity in advance from the Amazing Space Web site. Instructions are in the Computer Needs section accessed from the activity’s title page.
  5. Go to the activity’s Grab Bag section and select text, student activities, or other Internet links that direct you to related topics.


Space Science
Physical Science


· A review of the history of telescope development.
· Identify important events related to the evolution of the telescope.
· Relate technological advances to scientific advances using the telescope as the tool.


Before attempting to complete this lesson, the student should:

· Read at an 8th-grade level.
· Be able to interpret information.
· Have basic note-taking skills.
· Be able to read to answer comprehension questions.
· Know that the electromagnetic spectrum is a continuum of wavelengths (also, frequency and energy), artificially broken into seven sections called radio waves, microwaves, infrared light, visible light, ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays.
· Be able to explain that light travels in straight lines unless something alters its path.
· Know that mirrors reflect light, whereas lenses refract light.
· Know that telescopes gather and focus more light than the human eye can.

Note: All prerequisite information content can be found in the “What You Need to Know” section of “Get to the Root of It.”

Process skills acquired:

· Observing
· Analyzing
· Reading for a purpose

Target audience / grade levels:

Grades 7–14, various levels of abilities

Preparation time:

· Time necessary to download computer software to support the lesson.
· Teachers should allow time to preview the lesson and to read the science background pages. These pages will provide additional content that will help teachers answer questions posed by students.
· By previewing the lesson plan, teachers will be able to select an engagement activity, identify follow-up activities, and allow time for gathering supplies needed by students to complete the lesson.

Execution time by module:

The following times are approximate. The execution time for each module could vary, depending on your purpose for using the module, the school's Internet location (e.g., classroom, library, computer lab), the number of computers available with Internet access, and the number of students in the class.

Get to the Root of It
· Start with the basics: 30–60 minutes
· Light, color, and optics: 30–45 minutes
· Telescopes: 45–60 minutes

Explore the History of Telescopes from Galileo to the Great Observatories
· Galileo’s Refractor: about 10 minutes
· Early Refractors: about 10 minutes
· Great Refractors: about 20 minutes
· Newton’s Telescope: about 10 minutes
· Early Reflectors: about 25 minutes
· Hugh Reflectors: about 20 minutes
· Solar Telescopes: about 10 minutes
· Radio Telescopes: about 15 minutes
· Multi-mirror Telescopes: about 15 minutes
· Space Telescopes: about 30 minutes


March 16–17, 2005

Last update:

December 27, 2007


Content development
· Research: Linda Knisely, Tracy Vogel
· Writing: Tracy Vogel
· Science consultants: Michael Wenz, Frank Summers, Ph.D., STScI
· Education specialist: Linda Knisely
· Informational graphics: Kathy Cordes, Linda Knisely
· Image searches and permissions: Linda Knisely, Stephanie Smith, Heather Bradbury
· Copy editing: Ann Feild Didyk, Kathy Cordes, Tracy Vogel

Design and production
· Designer: Stephanie Smith
· Illustrator: Stephanie Smith
· Informational graphics: Kathy Cordes
· Interactive informational graphics: Stephanie Smith
· Programming: Jonathan Eisenhamer, John Bartelme

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