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A Private Universe by Cedric Giffinglat - Fri, 04 Jan 2019 16:34:29 EST ID:6xMWh2NE No.209626 Ignore Report Quick Reply
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A majority of people surveyed in several countries know that the Earth rotates around the Sun, but it seems likely that those who understand the role of Earth’s tilt in producing the seasons are a more elite group.

Confusion about seasonality became a focus of science educators thanks to a powerful documentary called “A Private Universe”, produced by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 1987. In the opening clip of the documentary, several freshly minted Harvard graduates were quizzed on commencement day about what caused the seasons—and the results were eye-opening. Only 2 of the 23 randomly interviewed Harvard grads gave a complete and correct answer although all of them assumed that they knew or could reason it out swiftly. These people who graduated from Harvard in 1987 are now in their 50s and they're in the halls of government and corporate power and they're just as certain of themselves now as they were then and they're just as intelligent, competent and well educated too.

“A Private Universe” not only prompted a rethinking of how seasonality was taught, but it also led to a more general look at how misunderstandings can persist throughout one’s education, as students fit new knowledge into flawed mental models. Science educators looked back on the film and shared its impact on them in a 2007 conference session, part of a set of videos available online from Annenberg Learner on the project’s legacy—including the original “A Private Universe”. You can’t help but feel for the (happily anonymous) students whose misconceptions have been preserved on video for decades, but at least their struggles helped to improve science education for millions of students who followed them.


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