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Education Newswire: July/August 1998

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: // 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.

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

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