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The Cosmos in the Classroom Conferences

Mercury Spring 2007 Table of Contents

Astronomy classroom
Illustration by and courtesy of A. Fraknoi

by Andrew Fraknoi

Our best estimates are that roughly 250,000 college students take an introductory astronomy course in the United States each year. While this is only a fraction of those who watch television shows about UFOs or movies like Spiderman 2 (with its ridiculous home-made fusion machine cobbled together on an abandoned dock), those courses are nevertheless a very significant interface between the astronomical community and the educated voting public. After all, this means that every four years we expose a million college students to the story of the planets, stars, and galaxies with which they share the Universe.

For many non-science students, an astronomy course may be their one contact with the physical sciences during their entire college careers. We owe them an experience that they will remember with pleasure -- not necessarily because it was easy, but because it gave them a real sense of our understanding of the Universe and our connections with it, as well insights into the nature and process of science.

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