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Education Newswire: January/February 1999

A Cool Opportunity in the Summer Arizona Desert

The use of Astronomy in Research Based Science Education (RBSE), an NSF-funded Teacher Enhancement program, invites applications from middle- and high-school teachers interested in developing a research component for their science classes within the multi-disciplinary context of astronomy. Offered by the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO), RBSE offers a research experience to sixteen teachers during a 180-hour summer workshop and extends the experience to the classroom during the academic year with materials, support, datasets, and mentors. Program highlights include training in image processing and use of web resources; observing runs using the telescopes of Kitt Peak National Observatory; springboard activities to customize and use during the academic year with updated datasets; opportunities to job-shadow members of the NOAO technical staff and build a solar telescope; mentoring from professional astronomers and educators who have successfully implemented research-based science classes in a variety of situations.

The 1999 program takes place in Tucson, Arizona, from 11 July through 7 August. Participants will receive travel costs, room & board, and a stipend. Application deadline is 8 March. For more information and application materials, visit their website at www.noao.edu/outreach/rbse/ or contact Suzanne Jacoby, NOAO Education Officer, P.O. Box 26732, Tucson, AZ 85726-6732. Phone and email are 520.318.8230 and outreach@noao.edu.

40 Years of Students Tracking Asteroids

The Summer Science Program is once again being held at The Thacher School. Now in its 41st consecutive year, this program is much more than just another summer program. It is more like joining an extended family of 1270 members who have attended the program in the past, are now active professionals, and many of whom are still actively involved in and support the program. Designed for entering 11th and 12th graders, 36 girls and boys are selected from across the country to participate in an integrated curriculum of observational astronomy, mathematics, physics, and computer science. Classroom instruction is linked to a hands-on cooperative research problem: the determination of the orbits of minor planets (asteroids). No academic credit is given, and no grades are awarded; this is purely an enrichment program for the highly motivated student who enjoys cooperative rather than competitive learning. The Program especially encourages applications from young women and minority students. Applicants must have had three years of math (at least through Algebra II, geometry, and trigonometry) and a lab science. Cost is $2000 for room, board, tuition; need-based financial aid is available, as are travel grants. Each year about 40% of the students received some sort of financial aid. Consideration of applications will begin in February; after that, admission will be granted on a rolling basis until the program is filled. Contact Roger Klausler, Administrative Director, at The Thacher School, 5025 Thacher Road, Ojai, CA 93023, at rklausler@thacher.org, or visit their website at www.thacher.org.

Educators’ Astronomy Camp-Out

The University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory announces its fourth Astronomy Camp for Educators, 21-24 June. Participants will live as astronomers, spending three hands-on nights using the University’s 40 inch and 60 inch research telescopes and associated instrumentation. Other activities include planetarium orientation, lectures/ activities by astronomers and classroom teachers, tours of the University’s Mirror Lab and other facilities, volleyball and hiking, and a “swap meet” of teaching ideas and materials. Science educators from elementary schools to universities are all invited. For information call Lisa Roubal at 1.800.BEAT.ASU (outside Arizona) or 520.621.7576 (within Arizona).

Asteroids Finally Hit Project CLEA

Project CLEA has just released its latest exercise, “Astrometry of Asteroids,” available from its website at http://www3.gettysburg.edu/~marschal/clea/astlab.html. This exercise incorporates software to find asteroids using digital images of the sky taken at different times, along with software designed to measure the precise positions of stars on images. It also includes several digital images of asteroids taken at research observatories and documentation for both the students and the instructor.

In the first part of the exercise, students find asteroids by “blinking” pairs of images of the sky. Reference stars from the Hubble Guide Star Catalog are used to calculate the asteroid position and angular speed. In the second part of the exercise, students use two views of the asteroid taken at different locations to measure the parallax and distance to the asteroid. Combining this result with the angular speed of the asteroid from part one yields the tangential velocity of the asteroid. Contact the CLEA Project at its website or by telephone at 717.337.6026.

Ceres in Montana?

A team of master teachers, university faculty, and NASA researchers has created a series of web-based astronomy lessons for the CERES (Center for Educational Resources) Project. These classroom-ready activities for K-12 students represent a robust combination of teaching/learning strategies from the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996), exciting and current NASA science data, and Internet pointers to an endless supply of accurate and timely resources.

Two types of classroom-ready lessons are available on-line. In Student Inquiries / Extension Lessons students explore NASA data to construct first-hand knowledge about the Universe. These Internet-based lessons require one to four class hours and are tied explicitly to the NRC National Science Education Standards astronomy objectives. They can be used as an introduction to astronomy topics, as an intermediate activity, or as an extension activity which requires active participation by students. Spacequests Classes divide into research teams to attack scientific problems. These collaborative group projects require four to ten class hours and integrate themes & unifying concepts in science with astronomy objectives from the NRC National Science Education Standards.

I found the material very well organized and thought-out. The website is easy to use and allows you to get started with a minimum of effort. The Project is headed by Tim Slater, Montana State University and can be directly accessed at btc.montana.edu/ceres.

Igniting the LodeStar!

LodeStar is a $32.8 million project dedicated to astronomy-oriented science education and research. The project is administered by the University of New Mexico and is composed of three sites that create a “golden triangle of astronomy” in New Mexico. One of the sites, Enchanted Skies Park, will be the world’s first park dedicated to public exploration of the night sky. For more information concerning LodeStar, the Astronomy, Education, and Research Project of New Mexico, please visit their website at lodestar.phys. unm.edu and read the first edition of the LodeStar newsletter.

LEO P. CONNOLLY is a professor in the Department of Physics at California State University in San Bernardino. He attended the Project ASTRO workshop in 1996 and started a partnership in 1997. His email address is lconnoll@wiley.csusb.edu.