Ask an Astronomer can be a great resource for the classroom, and we encourage questions from teachers and students! As you can imagine, the needs of students and teachers are a bit different from the needs of individual curious people, so we ask that educators review this page.
Using the Ask an Astronomer page can be a lesson, not only in astronomy, but also in how to use the Internet. Please review our rules and monitor the questions your students send. For large groups, using proper netiquette and following the guidelines becomes even more important.
The major issue with classrooms is typically volume. We usually receive something like 10-20 questions every day. You can easily see that if every student in a classroom of thirty sends us a question, our workload is doubled! Please keep in mind that we are students who volunteer our time! If your class sends a small number of well thought-out questions, everyone will have a better experience.
Guidelines for using the Ask an Astronomer page in the classroom:
Let us know you're coming.
Instructors planning to have several students send questions should email curious[at]astro[dot]cornell[dot]edu and tell us:
- Your name.
- Your school.
- What class this is for.
- A brief description of the assignment you're giving to your students.
- An estimate of how many emails and questions will be sent.
When your students send their question, have them include their name, your name, their school, and their class. For example, "My name is Susan Rogers, and I'm in Mr. Smith's 6th hour Earth Science class at Washington Junior High, and my question is . . ."
If we have this information, we can tailor our responses to your students' level and make sure that every email gets a prompt answer. Also, we will know that your students' questions are a legitimate part of their assignment.
Students should do some research first.
Make sure the students read and follow the rules.
Students should make some effort to find answers to their questions on their own. Check out the previously answered questions our archives. Explore the links we provide in each category. Use a search engine like Google.
Questions should be specific. Questions like, "I would like to know more about Mars," or "Send me information about black holes," or "What is a good website about stars?" are not appropriate.
We're not trying to discourage students from asking questions! We would simply like to avoid repeating information that is easily available in a science book or on many websites. Please use us as a resource for information beyond the basics! We'd like students to learn that ask-the-expert sites should be a last resort, something to try if you're stumped and can't find an answer anywhere else, not the first place to go if you have a question.
A little research by your students is sure to inspire some fascinating questions!
Please monitor the questions your students send in. This extra attention on your part will allow us to focus on answers that will enrich your classroom experience.
Consider a group activity.
You may want to organize your students into small groups and have each group choose one or two questions, or have the class as a whole choose ten questions. This will minimize duplicate questions and weed out the questions that students can answer by themselves. This activity will also generate class discussion and build teamwork and communication skills.
- Have your students explore our website and links before sending questions.
- Monitor the number and type of questions your students are sending.
- Encourage your students to try to answer their questions on their own, first. If they do find the answer, this will often lead to more interesting questions!
- Make sure questions are not duplicated.
- Do not assign every student in your class to interview an astronomer.
Also, please note that we encourage teachers to reproduce any material from our site for use in the classroom! We only ask that you indicate our website as the source of the material; see our copyright notice for more information.
We look forward to hearing from teachers and students! If you have any suggestions, comments or questions, email us at curious[at]astro[dot]cornell[dot]edu