Getting Astronomers Involved in the IYA: Astronomer in the Classroom Program

by Nancy Atkinson on April 13, 2009

Teaching hands-on astronomy.  Credit: N. Atkinson

Teaching hands-on astronomy. Credit: N. Atkinson


We just received some great information from Kris Koenig, the producer/director of the PBS documentary that is now airing “400 Years of the Telescope,” and we wanted to help get the word out to both astronomers and teachers about this new educational program called Astronomer in the Classroom. The project is being facilitated by the University of Hawaii Institution for Astronomy along with Koenig’s Interstellar Studios as an educational program for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA). The program will be done via webcasts and is beginning today! They are looking for astronomers that are interested in volunteering 3 hours to this worthy activity, and want to let teachers know about the availability of this program for their classroom.

The Astronomer in the Classroom Program will provide astronomers with the opportunity to interface with school children across North America during the IYA2009. Using Abode® Connect, a web conferencing solution, Interstellar Studios will host three 20-minute webcasts every school day in 2009 starting in mid-April.

The webcasts will be conducted at the same time each day, to accommodate national time zone differences and grade levels (3-5, 7-8, 9-12) allowing educators to drop-in when their curriculum and testing schedules allow it. This flexible scheduling will afford convenience to the teachers while avoiding bandwidth congestion.

A schedule of participating astronomers will be posted at www.astronomerintheclassroom.org with brief descriptions of the lectures allowing both the student and teacher a chance to plan for webcasts that they would like to participate in.

The Adobe® Connect web-based interface will allow the astronomer to be viewed and heard over the web, as well as run a PowerPoint® presentation live. Students can interact by typing questions to the conference. A Moderator will be provided to help facilitate the follow-up Q & A period.

Graduate students, post docs and active researchers who can give three hours to this worthy cause are invited to volunteer. The program should only require one hour of prep to create the presentation, ½-hour to upload and test the provided webcam and 1 ½-hours to do the three webcasts.

IfA has donated the cost of the Adobe® licensing and Interstellar Studios is managing this free program. Volunteers need only provide a PC/Mac with a webcam and microphone. An Internet connection rated DSL or better is required

No special training is needed. Astronomers who are passionate about their research, and enjoy sharing their discoveries and news of their institution, have already met the most important criteria for participation. Participating astronomers are simply asked to keep in mind the grade levels’ attention capacity, and to describe the subject matter with grade appropriate vocabulary.

For astronomers whose institutions are expected to perform outreach, and /or participate in the IYA2009, the Astronomer in the Classroom Program offers a convenient, high-impact means to meet those objectives.

Make a difference during the IYA 2009! Inspire a child to look up and ask why!

Contact Information:

Interstellar Studios
11 Ilahee Lane
Chico, CA 95973
Telephone – (530) 343-5635

www.AstronomerInTheClassroom.org

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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