Thursday, 7 June 2012

The transit of Venus

As a science teacher, I was very excited about the transit of Venus yesterday.

I've been laughing about this joke all day!

The transit of Venus occurred on 6 June and is when Venus passes between the Earth and the sun, blocking a small part of the sun out. It's similar to a new moon, except it would of course be called a 'new Venus' and it happens much more rarely - four times about every 250 years. Students and staff of the at my school excitedly viewed the transit through a solar scope organised by one of my colleagues. Several concerned teachers actually approached the large bunch of students congregating around something, thinking that they needed to to break up a fight or something! The were pleasantly suprised to discover the scientists, engineers and astronomers of tomorrow excitedly observing an event which won’t occur again in any of our lifetimes.
The transit enabled so many relevant learning opportunites. One of my classes was alsready studying Earth and space, so the transit of Venus slotted in seamlessly and allowed for a richer, more relevant experience. It helped the students to understand about solar and lunar eclipses too. The historical significance of the transit in relation to Captain Cook and the Endeavour, the physics of a solar scope, the anatomy and physiology of the eye, polarised light, and the mathematical calculations involved by using the time of the transit to calculate distances were all discussed with various classes on the day. The planets literally do not align often for relevant and rich learning experiences like this.
Actual picture of the solar scope.
The white circle is the sun and the small black dot at the top is Venus.
This was the beginning of the transit.

The end of the transit on the live stream.

To quote a colleague's status update: Just had 200 students give up their lunch break to join me in a viewing of Venus. Standing room only!! Gives me hope that we WILL have science thinkers/problem solvers into the future.

That is definately something to be excited about.


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