Science in the Media:
Session 3

Communicating a New Discovery

What does it take to be a reporter? In this session, students will try their hand at writing a piece based on a new astronomical discovery. Students receive a NASA media kit that will introduce them to a new discovery which builds on the astronomy background they learned in Session 1. After choosing a target audience for their media piece, students brainstorm questions they would have for scientists involved in the discovery. Then students listen in on a NASA science briefing for answers to most of their questions. Finally, students present the discovery in a media format appropriate for a specific audience.

Timeline

Estimated class time: 2 class periods

  • Class 1: Read over Media Kit, formulate questions, watch press briefing
  • Class 2: Re-watch press briefing (if needed), work on student pieces

Key Concepts

  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Active galactic nuclei (AGN), black holes, material around the black hole in AGN

Instructional Delivery

  1. New discovery about AGN. The students become reporters with the job of sharing a new discovery with their audience. Students should decide what audience they will be reporting to (general, science-interested, or astronomy-interested) and what type of media they will be writing/presenting. Determine if you would like your students to work on a written piece or if they can explore other media, such as blogs, podcasts, or videos. If you allow them to report using other media, remind students that even podcasts and videos have scripts, so they will be writing no matter what media they choose. Provide students the Press Kit from NASA and have them complete the “NASA Science Briefing” worksheet.

  2. Listening in on a NASA science briefing. Tell the students that they will now get to listen in on a NASA science briefing about the new AGN discovery. Some of their questions should be answered by the scientists in the briefing. Students will need to take notes during the press conference, paying special attention to answers to the questions they wrote in response to the Press Kit.

    The science briefing is available streaming on TeacherTube and YouTube:

    Or you can download the video here: Download Press Conference Video

    After watching the science briefing, ask if there were any questions not answered by the scientists in the video. There are likely to be many that were not answered. Take this opportunity to ask students if they think this happens in a real-life press briefing (it does!). And ask students how reporters handle it when they still have questions. Students should recognize that reporters will need to do further research, which may include calling scientists either directly involved in the discovery or familiar with the science discussed in the press conference.

  3. Sharing the new discovery with an audience. Students now have the tools they need to write their piece. Hand out the “Preparing to Write” and “Write an Article About the Discovery” worksheets to students. These two handouts will walk students through the process of writing a newspaper article about the new discovery. Even if students are writing an audio or video podcast, they should fill out these worksheets because they will need to include the same information in their script. Also give the “Rubric for Sharing a New Discovery Article” handout to students, so they know how their final project will be graded. Finally, students produce their piece on this new Suzaku discovery.

Student Handouts





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