Every Picture Tells a Story
Background Notes

People only see what they are prepared to see. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

This activity is designed to show students how our mind connects two dimensional images to three dimensional reality.  Our knowledge of space science changes as our skill for seeing what is in the night sky increases.  With eyes as their only tools, early people watched the skies, telling stories to explain what they saw happening in the sky.  For centuries people continued to watch the movement in the night sky, adding new knowledge to the old.  Telescopes provided even better ways of seeing.  Clearer sight gave a new understanding of what was happening in our solar system.  The telescope led to the discovery of new stars and planets.  Our knowledge of the heavens changed as we revised our old understanding to fit the new knowledge.  Today, with tools developed by NASA, we can see beyond our solar system to the far universe. Space probes and the Hubble Space Telescope send pictures back to Earth, giving us close up views of planetary bodies in and beyond our solar system.  For the first time we have a chance to see the heavenly bodies up close. Understanding what we see is our task.  We use our previous knowledge added to new observations to begin to unravel the mysteries of space.  It is up to us to learn to look at these images to gain a new view of space.

The goal of this activity is to specifically create a sense of disequilibrium in visual perception so that students will become aware that there are different ways to to view a picture.

The constructivist structure of the lesson creates a disequilibrium in prior knowledge so that learners begin to construct new knowledge with a focus for viewing scientific data imagery presented in the science content of the NASA CERES Project. 

Note: These pages are designed for teacher use...the students have their own individual pages where they will conduct their work.  If students gain access to the main page, they may find the "Keys to the Pictures" link and find the answers to the images.  

Basic concept : What we observe is influenced by prior knowledge.  We must learn to look from different perspectives to gain new knowledge of what we see in a picture. 

Active listening skills are key to constructivist learning.  Skillful questioning can elicit a student's prior knowledge so that connections can be made to new information.  It is the teacher's responsibility to listen carefully then formulate questions that lead the student to clarify misconceptions and to apply the new knowledge to their experience.