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Project ASTRO Educator-Astronomer Partnerships

One of Project ASTRO’s primary goals is to help teachers (and also other types of educators, e.g., youth group leaders) improve their astronomy and science teaching by working closely with someone with special knowledge of astronomy. At the same time the project aims to give professional and amateur astronomers the opportunity to make a positive contribution to science education and to the experiences of the adults of tomorrow.

Our first step is to pair interested teachers and astronomers who can commit to work together for the school year and agree to at least four astronomer class visits per school year. Prior to the start of the school year, all of the partnerships come together for an intensive two-day training workshop that establishes goals for the partnership, creates a plan for the school year, and provides resources and demonstrations of hands-on, age appropriate activities. The workshop also helps to make the partners familiar with each others’ worlds and encourages them to communicate openly and often with each other.

Before the class visits, the astronomer and teacher meet to plan their approach and determine prepatory activities for the students. During the visit, the astronomer and teacher present activities, information, and demonstrations that introduce students to specific astronomy content. After the visit the teacher will often reinforce the content presented and prepare students for the next astronomer visit. The astronomer visits are a highlight for the class and many teachers are asked repeatedly, “When will our astronomer be back?”

Project ASTRO partnerships are important in that they combine the expertise of the classroom teacher with the expertise of an amateur or professional scientist. The relationship is a collaborative one in which children are the ultimate beneficiaries. Project ASTRO Partnerships:

  • establish on-going relationships between a visiting astronomer, educator, and a group of young people;
  • treat both members of the partnership as equal partners with their own areas of expertise;
  • include training for both partners in workshops that emphasize the importance of using hands-on, age-appropriate activities;
  • don’t reinvent the wheel, but instead take advantage of the wide range of existing astronomy activities, resources, and teaching tools;
  • tailor Project ASTRO to reflect their own interests, needs, and community resources;
  • when possible, involve other local science and education institutions in the partnership activities;
  • involve families and the community.