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Project ASTRO How-To Manual: FINDING A PARTNER

Project ASTRO How-To ManualFor Astronomers: Finding a Partner Teacher
For Teachers: Finding a Partner Astronomer

By now you've decided you want to start a Project ASTRO partnership, but you don't have a partner. Having the interest is the first step; finding a partner may require some initiative and persistence. Even if the first person you contact does not work out, he or she may be able to refer you to the perfect person. Here are some ideas about where to begin.

FOR ASTRONOMERS: FINDING A PARTNER TEACHER

Among the ways to find a partner teacher are:

1. Make contact with an individual teacher.

2. "Network" through school personnel and other people you know.

3. Publicize your availability through written material.

Making contact with an individual teacher is perhaps the best approach. Information left with school administrators can get lost before it reaches interested teachers. A good way to find the names of teachers is to start with people you know (see below) because they will have a greater interest in helping you. When you contact a teacher, explain that you want to volunteer as a Project ASTRO astronomer and describe some of what you'd like to offer. Be aware that not all teachers cover astronomy, so it may take some persistence to find a teacher who does, or wants to. Here are some suggestions about whom to approach as a first point of contact:

How to Approach School Personnel

When you call or write, communicate your desire to have an ongoing relationship with the school and to have an impact on astronomy and science education. Let the teacher, counselor, or administrator know that you would like to provide ongoing enrichment to the classroom lessons (not just a one-time lecture). Describe some of the specific ways you think you can be of help, and discuss your availability and commitment.

Bring a copy of the Project ASTRO How-To Manual, The Universe at Your Fingertips, and other Project ASTRO resource materials you may have to a meeting with the school principal or classroom teacher. Summarize or photocopy the brief description of Project ASTRO at the beginning of the How-To Manual.

Ask what ideas the teacher, counselor, or administrator has about how you can help with astronomy and science education. Emphasize that the focus of Project ASTRO is on astronomy, but the broader goal is to help students develop enthusiasm in science and logical reasoning skills.

Follow-up with a note and phone call. Teachers and administrators get extremely busy and may have difficulty getting back to you as soon as you would like. Take it upon yourself to make follow-up contact.

(Adapted from One Small Step...An Education Outreach Resource Guide produced by AIAA and NASA)

FOR TEACHERS: FINDING A PARTNER ASTRONOMER

Because Project ASTRO encourages both amateur and professional astronomers to visit schools, there are several avenues to pursue to find a partner astronomer.

1. Contact local astronomy clubs

Many amateur astronomers belong to local astronomy clubs. Each club usually has some members who are interested in education and explaining astronomy to the public. Often, astronomy clubs hold star parties for the public, or go to local schools for one-time visits. You will want to find the club members who are interested in conveying astronomy to others and have at least some experience with children. Call the club president, attend a local meeting, or show up at an evening star gazing session and talk to the members. Most likely you will find someone who is enthusiastic. To find amateur astronomy clubs in your area, contact your local planetarium, community college astronomy department, or a local telescope store. Lists of amateur clubs also appear each year in a supplement section included in Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines, available in many libraries.)

2. Contact astronomy educators

Call your local planetarium, science center, or community college to find astronomy educators. Many of these institutions have at least one person on staff who teaches astronomy, usually someone with a Master's degree in astronomy. Staff and faculty at these organizations can be quite busy, but may be interested in visiting your school to enhance their teaching skills and experience, and to link with the community. If the main astronomer or faculty member is not available, he or she may be able to refer you to advanced students, amateur astronomers, or others in the local astronomy community.

3. Contact professional or research astronomers

The involvement of professional astronomers in K-12 education is gaining legitimacy as scientists in astronomy and other fields recognize the importance of supporting science education in the early grades. You can find professional astronomers through local colleges and universities, research labs, NASA centers, and industry. Graduate students and postdoctoral level professionals may be particularly interested in working with schools. At the university level, the best initial contact is the astronomy and physics department secretary. He or she should be able to give you names of faculty members or graduate students who have an interest in education. Ask if the secretary can post an announcement on electronic mail (astronomers use electronic mail as one of their main vehicles of communication), or distribute letters to all faculty and graduate students. If you need help finding astronomy programs and research centers in your area, contact the American Astronomical Society (2000 Florida Avenue, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20009 (202)328-2010). The AAS is the professional society for astronomers and publishes an annual directory of its individual and organizational members.

4. Call the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

We have a growing database of astronomers interested in Project ASTRO, and can help refer you to other organizations. You can reach us at (415) 337-1100.

About Amateur Astronomers

Amateur astronomers come from all walks of life and pursue astronomy as a hobby. Most amateurs have other careers - they may be doctors, or contractors, or business people, or software engineers (one dynamic amateur astronomer we know is a butcher). Some amateurs are retired professional astronomers, and, while the majority of amateur astronomers are men, there are increasing numbers of women involved in astronomy clubs. Amateur astronomy is an exciting hobby because amateur astronomers can actually make scientific discoveries and contribute to the field of astronomy. Because the sky is so large, there is room for many telescopes to keep watch for astronomical events. In fact, many new comets are discovered by amateur "comet hunters" and some exploding stars were first noticed by amateur observers. Many amateurs know a lot about the night sky, constellation lore, and observing through a small telescope. And their enthusiasm for astronomy can be contagious.