Astronomy students take stars to YouTube

Sirius B (Maggie Boyd, '10) celebrates her one-millionth birthday in
A young star, Sirius B (Maggie Boyd, '10) celebrates her three-millionth birthday in "The Life of a Low Mass Star," written by astronomy student Calli McClain, '09

A star suffering a midlife crisis, a knockoff episode of "Myth Busters" and live footage of an astronaut disappearing into a black hole – Albion College astronomy students find a lot of creative images looking through a camera lens as well as a telescope. These educational and entertaining projects have been posted to the College's YouTube channel, reflecting new developments in teaching, learning and technology.

"This assignment used to be a three-page paper on a historical astronomer or space science person, but I was getting tired of reading the same stuff about the same people over and over," says Albion College physics professor Nicolle Zellner, explaining the inspiration for the video projects. "This activity helps emphasize the fact that astronomy is not all math, but is beauty and creativity, too."

"I'm not even a member of the class, and I learned a lot," says juior Maggie Boyd, who starred in "The Life of a Low Mass Star," written by class members Calli McCain and Erin Walters. Boyd notes that her father, a science teacher in Martin, Mich., "showed it to his seventh grade class and they said it really helped them understand how stars are formed. He really likes that video and I think he wants to take it to a teachers' conference to share with other people."

"I thought it was going to be a lot harder than it actually was," said Rachel Frusti, '10, co-creator of the "Astronomy" video on the work of Galileo. "Watching the videos in class to see what everyone came up with was probably the best part. Many of them were highly entertaining, but still educational."

The videos reflect college students' general interest in sarcasm and silliness. but Zellner is enthusiastic about the messages behind the medium. It's valuable, she explains, to "let students express their ideas in a way that's not simply researching and writing – or searching and cutting and pasting!" she smiles. "Also, by listening to their scripts, I can get a better sense of what they think about or remember from class. It's a really useful project."

View Albion's astronomy class videos at: