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Education Newswire

Progress and Perspective

Two years ago, this column was started with a review of the one day conference Teaching Astronomy at Community and Small Colleges held during the 108th Annual Meeting of the ASP. Over 60 participants attended. At the recent 110th Annual Meeting, an international symposium on Teaching Astronomy to Non-science Majors attracted over 130 participants for two very full days. There were formal presentations, panel discussions, and hands-on workshops.

A truly impressive aspect of the symposium was the cross-section of teachers present: graduate students; professors with over 30 years experience; K-12 teachers, some with little to no formal training in astronomy. As might be expected, a diverse group such as this also displayed a diversity of ideas about teaching astronomy. Was there agreement on course goals, course content, methodologies, student profiles, use of the web? Of course not! And none was expected. It was in the discussion of these and other topics that participants gained perspective on what they are doing, should be doing, could be doing. I never leave one of these (rare) meetings without enormous respect for the energy, creativity, and dedication of many of these fine teachers. I know I still have much to learn from my colleagues in teaching.

A Picture A Day

"Astronomy Picture of the Day" was developed by two NASA scientists who recognized the educational value of NASA's vast photographic archives. Thus, if you go to http: //antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html each morning you'll get a beautiful astronomical image accompanied by a hyperlinked explanation of the picture written by scientists. There is an archive of previous dates' pictures and their accompanying explanations. This site, however, is not meant to give the latest images from the various NASA missions. For those, you should contact the specific NASA site.

A Network Of Astronomy Instructors In Non-Research Colleges

The ASP is establishing an informal network of instructors who teach astronomy in colleges where research is not the primary activity required of faculty. As a first step, the Society is conducting a short survey of these instructors, to find out more about them and to establish a way of exchanging information. Instructors who teach astronomy only part-time are particularly encouraged to join. Approximately 400 instructors have filled out surveys so far, and several sessions have been held at national astronomy meetings. If you would like to join the network without charge or obligation, you can: (a) print out the survey from ASP's website and fill it out (URL is http://www.astrosociety.org/education/survey.html); (b) fax a request for the college instructor survey to (415) 337.5205; (c) send an email request, including your postal mailing address, to Andrew Fraknoi at fraknoiandrew {at} fhda.edu; or (d) mail a request, again including your mailing address, to College Survey, ASP, 390 Ashton Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94112. Please pass this information on to colleagues who may not see it otherwise.

Radio Science In The Classroom

At the next URSI/USNC meeting, to be held 4-7 January 1999 in Boulder, CO, the Radio Astronomy Commission is sponsoring a session on "Radio Science in the Classroom." This afternoon session will occur on Tuesday, 5 January. Needed are people who have experience in hands-on instructional labs. There are several categories of such labs, running the gamut from standard university lab courses to summer schools for high school teachers. The sharing of techniques, course content, hardware arrangements, and teaching experiences will help one's efforts by learning about what others are doing, providing positive feedback, and fostering connections among colleagues who otherwise might be operating independently.

Verbal talks are being solicited for this session. Each talk will be 15 minutes with 5 additional minutes for discussion. A goal is to have representative talks from people in different instructional categories. If you are interested in presenting a talk, please contact Carl Heiles via email at cheiles@astro.berkeley.edu.

ASP and JPL Sponsor a Web Scavenger Hunt

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be sponsoring a web scavenger hunt beginning in September. The questions for the hunt deal with astronomy and space science and will be located along with full contest rules beginning on 1 September at the ASP and JPL websites. 50 winners will be selected in a random drawing from all completed entries on 2 November; they will receive NASA posters, stickers, and other neat prizes. In addition, the first 100 completed entries will receive a certificate of participation, which is open to anyone - individual or group - with access to the world wide web (both the Society and the Laboratory strongly encourage school classes at all levels to join in). To participate, just follow these guidelines:

On 16 November, the names of the 50 winners will be available at both institutions' websites. ASP and JPL see this scavenger hunt as the first of many joint activities to involve people in and excite them about astronomy and NASA's missions of exploration in outer space. Good luck, (cyber)space scavengers!
You can still go and see the winners!

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 June 1996 and started a partnership last September. His email address is lconnoll@wiley.csusb.edu.