Celestial Mechanics

One of the Science from Scientist instructors originally scheduled to teach at McKinley accepted a full time position in a science laboratory and we wish her the best of luck.  

Let me introduce myself; I am Dr. Sullivan.  This was my first day meeting the students at McKinley.  I have my undergraduate degree in Biology from Cornell University and my graduate degree in Biochemistry from Rice University.  I’ve previously taught at the middle school, high school, and college levels.   The reason I love what I am doing is the joy in seeing  the excitement on the students’ faces as they discover something new about science.  

Today’s lesson focused on celestial mechanics or the interactions between the Earth, Sun and Moon. Did you know that the reason that we experience seasons is due to the Earth’s tilt?  In the northern hemisphere, we are actually closer to the sun in the winter than in summer.   Students demonstrated why the sunlight in the New England is weaker in the winter and stronger in the summer.  After learning about seasons, we talked about the Moon, Earth’s only natural satellite.   They also investigated the 8 phases of the Moon and learned an easy mnemonic device “DOC” to help identify between a growing (waxing) and fading (waning) moon.   Using their bodies as models, students demonstrated why we always see the same side of the moon.  We also discussed the differences between solar and lunar eclipses.  Ask your student how to tell the difference between a Waxing Crescent Moon and a Waning Crescent Moon.  

Visit this link to watch a 5 minute video about seasons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD_8Jm5pTLk

This lesson was right on time!  There is a total lunar eclipse expected at 6:55 am on Wednesday October 8th.  Be sure to go outside to view this spectacular sight. 





Leighann Sullivan earned her BS in Biology from Cornell University. For a number of years she taught math, science, and language skills at a secondary school for learning disabled students. She subsequently earned her PhD in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from Rice University. Her dissertation was entitled, “Molecular and Genomic Analyses in Clostridium acetobutylicum.” When not pursuing academic interests she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, reading, and experimenting in the culinary arts.

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