Astronomy Picture of the Day
In the Classroom

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is being used as an educational resource in classrooms from elementary school to graduate school. Below, some teachers share how they have used APOD in their classrooms. If you have found APOD useful in your classroom and would to share your wisdom, please email us.

Since nobody is raising their hand, I'll go first. Besides being an author for APOD, I also teach, on occasion, Introduction to Astronomy at Michigan Technological University. Most of the pictures I use in class I get from APOD. I frequently use my browsers "FIND" utility on APOD's archive page, or APOD's index or APOD's own search page.

On Fridays the first thing I do is review the previous week's APODs. I find that even if the material in an APOD was not yet covered in class, student interest is high and I receive more curiosity-based questions than during the rest of the week.

Robert Nemiroff at Michigan Technological University

I use APOD as the warmup every day in my high school astronomy class. I show the picture carefully obscuring the caption, and ask students to follow Evidence, Claim, Reasoning in a daily quick write. The evidence is a list of the observations of the picture. This progresses from “red cloud in space” to “emission nebula” as the semester progresses. At first, the claim is regarding a guess as to what the picture is. Once we’ve done it for a while the claim becomes guessing why the picture was chosen for an APOD. Reasoning explains why the claim was made. Then I reveal the caption, read it to them, and select an astronomy vocabulary word of the day from the various technical terms in the caption. By the end of the semester they are able to tell me several things about almost any picture. A wonderful resource- thanks for your efforts and not compromising the language of the captions.

Jeff Adkins
Author, Conceptual Astronomy
Instructor, Los Medanos College and Deer Valley High School

For the last 15 years or so, I've use APOD everyday in my Astronomy classes. I bring up the picture, have students make observations for a few minutes, have a class discussion it for a bit, and then go back and read the descriptions. At first, most of the language is a bit tough for them, but by the time second semester rolls around, they’ve been introduced to most of the concepts highlighted in the descriptions. I stress to them that the foundation of astronomy is observations, so by discussing the pictures, they are participating in an age old practice. They love the beauty of the images and our favorite part over the last 5 years or so is guessing which link will take them to an animal. They LOVE guessing.
As an extension, I also have the students make their own APOD. They search for an image from a credible source and write a description for a concept that we have already covered in class. APOD helps them understand that there's a lot of bad astronomy on the internet and using credible sources for information is vital.
Keep the animals coming and thanks for all you do.
Sean Fisher-Rohde
Palatine High School
Palatine, Illinois

I teach a semester elective in astronomy. This course has a flexible curriculum and no standardized tests so I can take it where the students and I want to go. I often start my class with the APOD and try to not read the blurb ahead of time, so we can discover it together. I have designed activities where students use the site to do research and find images. We talk about how hard it is to find reliable sources for science with all the junk on the internet. Starting at APOD guarantees we'll be on the right track. I've even had students try to come up with their own ideas of how we could get a photo on APOD. Someday! Keep up the great work.
Bob Hill
Lunenburg HS
Lunenburg, MA

I've been using APOD in my high school astronomy course for over one year now. I have internet access in my room and a projector for my laptop so APOD is my homepage. As others have said, APOD generates more questions from students than any other type of material I use.

In addition to the introductory image, I've personally used APOD for images in my lectures. Students are always interested in as many pictures of objects as they can find and I find APOD the most easily accessible source for these.
Dr. Todd Ryan
Westborough High School

I'm a middle school science teacher with too much curriculum and not enough time. To beat some of the time crunch and have my students practice writing observations, I displayed the APOD for the first few minutes of class, had the students write a paragraph about what they saw, and then discussed briefly their observations. I'd fill in the details of the images as they attempted to make inferences about what they saw. I think the students learned a lot of astronomy, saw some "way cool" images, and practiced their descriptive language ability.
Phil Goulding

I teach, among other things, argument and technical writing at Texas A & M (College Station), and I have been using the Astropix site for the last two years to acquaint my students with scientific forms of discourse. I have created a list of about 50 of the sites beginning with the discussion of galaxies, then to the Milky Way, then to the solar system, then to scientists (they are surprised by and respect Hypatia and admire Galileo), then to telescopes from Galileo to Hubble and beyond, and then to the construction of time through the development of caldendars, and have them examine about five of them per week and then write me a one page essay in which they summarize the material from the sites, discuss the kinds of "proofs" or arguments employed, and then explain what they've learned from the sites.

This has become a very popular assignment. The students are initially apprehensive about analyzing scientific discourse, but soon become very interested in the assignment and what they are learning.
Brad McAdon
Texas A&M University

I have my students refer to APOD frequently. I have gotten many, many good links from your references with the pictures. I really don't know how I would teach astronomy without you, now.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!
Jack Carlson, Doherty Night School, Colorado Springs District 11

I have advertised [APOD] many times to my AST101 class here at SUNY Stony Brook. I have even regularly used its pictures to illustrate various points, since you have a good search index on the archive as well.
Ralph Wijers (Prof.)
SUNY Stony Brook Dept. of Physics and Astronomy

During the last few years I have been increasing the amount of focus on astronomical "current events" in my introductory astronomy class, and your site provides inspiration for class discussions and even assignments. I have even experimented with a non-traditional, topics-driven (rather than standard textbook style) version of the astronomy course. One of the assignments I use in such a setup is for students to summarize a late breaking story by digging up appropriate background material along with information on the results/facilities/etc. involved in the story. I have used APODs as models for how to present this information (at first we used written summaries with lists of links to key terms, but now I require students to build web-browser documents in Netscape Editor.

Tom English
Gardner-Webb University

Once a week, we have the students in the astronomy labs select a picture (individually), and turn in a form giving (a) a synopsis of the information posted with the picture, and (more importantly) (b) a paragraph or two of their "impressions". The second part can be anything -- if they think it looks like a fish, fine. Just say something interesting, and put some effort into it. We usually give from 0--3 points, and overall the APODs make up about 20% of the lab grade. The students say they like this a lot; a lot of them have never seen pictures of a nebula or something like that -- they think it's all just "little white dots". The only trouble we run into is in them getting behind and then trying to turn in a whole bunch at the end.

Mark Jacobs
Northern Michigan University

I am a fifth grade teacher, and have used your APOD site quite a bit this year. My students love it- some of them almost as much as their teacher does! Next year, we will have internet in the classroom and I intend to make it a daily fixture- along with "Today in History".

Each morning I display the APOD picture without the explanation. The children work to speculate as to what the picture might show. By the year's end, my ten- and eleven-year olds are surprisingly well-versed in all sorts of astronomical terminology and quite knowledgeable about stars, galaxies, the Solar System, and various celestial phenomena.

Brian Segool
Gwinnett Co. Public Schools
Lawrenceville, GA

Over the past two years, I've used Picture of the Day in every lecture session -- Astronomy for the non-scientist. Each class begins with Picture of the Day, and we discuss it -- never mind that it rarely is in synch with the course. Each quiz and exam has a Picture of the Day that was discussed in class, with no caption, and the student is to describe what they see. This is not only one of the most popular aspect of the lecture, but also their friends, and many of my friends that are not involved with the course check on this page on a regular basis. I also demand a project from each student, and a majority of them search for their topic beginning with Picture of the Day. It has become an essential, useful and popular part of my course.

Andrew Lazarewicz
Boston College

I teach Special Ed. at the High School level and was the first in my department with internet access. Last year, I taught Math, Earth Science, and Physical Science. My students are 9th through 12 graders with low reading levels and abstractional thought difficulties. I used your photos in two ways.

First, I printed out the occasional attention grabbing topical photos and laminated them, then hole punched them for easy storage in a regular binder. These we could pass around and discuss. The people and vehicles on the Moon and Mars fascinated my students, who were born long after the Moon missions and were unaware of them. The asteroid scare was easier to discuss with an asteroid sitting in front of us.

Second, I made a template which allows an accordion folded, tiny book to be made out of one page. Your photos were imported and the students selected the ones which represented what they had most enjoyed learning. They added text and printed their own book about their preferred planet. They then shared the books. This replace a report project. I keep an extra copy of each by the door and they are read almost every day.

Mary Ann Levy
Edison High School

For the past year I have started off my 6th grade science and math classes with the astronomy picture of the day. A different student finds the images and reads the text. Quite often a good conversation develops and there is always a tie to the math or science we are doing. THANKS, we love it!

Mark Munger
Aspen, CO

I print a copy of various pictures and place a new one in my classroom once a week. It is a great tool to spark interest in many students.

Don Brown
Chugiak High School
Physics and 9th Grade Integrated Science

I am studying at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, majoring in Physics and Astronomy. With each near picture and as my lectures continue, I am understanding your explanations more and more. Keep it up. I have introduced your page to lots of others as well.

I use [APOD] nearly every day in my second grade classroom as part of the opening, news, flag salute, etc. I find it a great way to expose and teach about a wide variety of topics. We especially enjoyed your Hale-Bopp pictures this spring.

Alki Elementary School

I hope every teacher of astronomy (and physics) is aware of your existence. And with color printers able to make transparencies, you have been a great help. Imagine being able to bring yesterday's release into the classroom today!

Illinois Wesleyan University

I teach sixth grade students in NJ. We are currently studying Astronomy. We are not using our textbook right now because we are finding the most current news articles in magazines, newspapers and on-line info. Your Astronomy Picture of the Day has become the highlight of my class. Thank you so much for writing the explanations in a way that we can understand, discuss and appreciate!

I teach 8th grade Earth Science and have used the APOD extensively in my astronomy unit.

Distinguished Colleague Illinois Science Teachers Association

I teach Astronomy at Pace University, and your page has helped me keep my course interesting.

Since becoming an APOD addict, I have turned many other people on to the experience, including my mother, who is an NYC high school English teacher. She prints out the pages every day to share with her students and then plasters them on her office wall. It is quite something to see this.

Most mornings the first thing I do is to download APOD and save it as wall paper on the computer in my classroom. For many of the students as they come into class they drop books at their seat then go to the computer to check out today's picture.

I also you as a source for productions of Powerpoint presentations on various topics. In fact today I'm looking for pictures of galaxies to make a small presentation. Keep them coming.

Rich Winter
Earth Science and Astronomy
Dryden, NY

As a teacher, I display APOD to my classes almost every day, and the students ask questions about the pictures, want to know why APOD is not displayed if it is not, are curious, and clearly enjoy it.

Dean Ezell
Bell Junior High School
San Diego, CA

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