McDonald Observatory at the CAST Conference
Mary Kay Hemenway
Generous support from donors helps the McDonald Observatory's Education and Outreach Office offer workshops for teachers at the observatory during the summer months. That work on behalf of science education continues in other ways, throughout the academic year.
Drs. Keely Finkelstein and Mary Kay Hemenway presented six workshops at CAST, the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching, sponsored by the Science Teachers Association of Texas, in Dallas November 17-19. They were assisted by a number of teachers who had attended other McDonald Observatory teacher programs. McDonald Observatory was the primary sponsor for each workshop, and some had sponsorship from NASA or NSF, related to grants received by researchers. The workshops were:
Spectroscopy: A Tool for Astronomy, presented by Dr. Mary Kay Hemenway and Dr. John Howe (teacher). Description: The discovery that the spectral features viewed by chemists matched spectral features of celestial bodies revolutionized astronomy in the 19th century. In the 21st century, astronomers study spectra in many wavelength regions. Participants will learn how to extend a standard spectroscopy lesson (using diffraction gratings) to illustrate state-of-the-art astronomy. These materials come from summer professional development workshop for teachers at McDonald Observatory sponsored in part by NASA. NASA funding was provided from a grant to Dr. Dan Jaffe for "Light and Optics" workshops. Attendance: 31.
ISEA (Informal Science Education Education Assocation) Presents: Our Solar System, presented by Dr. Keely Finkelstein and Sherre Boothman (teacher). Description: It's often difficult for students (and even teachers) to grasp the immense sizes and distances of objects in space. Using scale models is an extremely effective way to provide the proper framework with which to understand these concepts. After completing and discussing a scientific models survey, we will facilitate several fun hands-on activities about the sizes and distances of planets and the moon. Materials for these and other activities will be provided, along with other educational materials from McDonald Observatory. Attendance: 75.
Answering the Big Bang Challenge [offered twice -- first by Mary Kay Hemenway, Connie McPike (teacher), and Karen Wilson (teacher) and second by Hemenway, Kelley Janes (teacher), and M J Tykoski (teacher)]. Description: Cosmology enters the TEKS in grade 8 (characteristics of the Universe) and in high school Astronomy and Earth & Space Science. Do you need some activities for your class that include this concept? We'll share some ideas on dealing with big numbers and critical thinking about the Big Bang that we used in a summer workshop (From the Big Bang to Black Holes) for grade 8-12 teachers sponsored by NASA at McDonald Observatory. NASA funding was provided from a grant to Dr. Milos Milosavljevic for the "From the Big Bang to Black Holes" workshop. Attendance 61 and 31.
TESTA (Texas Earth Science Teachers Association) Presents: Solar System Timeline by Dr. Keely Finkelstein, Rachal Roessler (teacher), and Debra Hardy (teacher). Description: How many times has a student asked you "How did our Solar System form? In this workshop, we will begin with a discussion about the uses, advantages, and weaknesses of scientific models. Teachers will then organize event cards along a timeline to explore the formation of our Solar System starting from huge clouds of gas and dust, to the slow changes that continue to shape our current Earth. Information on where to find other related activities will be provided. Additional educational materials and resources from McDonald Observatory will also be provided to all participants. NASA funding was provided from a grant to Dr. Sally Dodson-Robinson for the "Formation of Planetary Systems" workshop. Attendance: 40
Everything You Wanted to Know about Teaching High School Astronomy by Dr. Mary Kay Hemenway with a panel of high school astronomy teachers: Kathy Ivey Wilson, Kelley Janes, and Delia Posey. Description: Astronomy is an attractive course for schools with limited laboratory space. This session will suggest how to structure a course to meet the new TEKS and use a minimum of new equipment. How do you choose an inexpensive telescope? Where can you find laboratory activities? This session will attempt to answer these and other questions from the perspective of an astronomy education expert and several high school astronomy teachers by suggesting activities/resources for each new Astronomy TEKS. ponsored by a NSF Grant to Dr. Pawan Kumar in conjunction with the UTeach summer workshop. Attendance: 31.
Private donors who helped support preparations for and implementation of the 2011 workshops include The Amon G. Carter Foundation, The Fash Foundation, The Hillcrest Foundation, the Semmes Foundation, the Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, and anonymous donors in Dallas, along with Joe and Lucy Parsley for the Joe and Lucy Parsley Texas Galileo Teacher Training Program.
McDonald Observatory also continues to benefit from the foresight of donors who have created educational endowments that will help increase K-12 science literacy in perpetuity. The endowments providing funds for the 2011 teacher workshops and resources include: The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation Education Endowment, The Carolyn Keenan and Charlie Gaines Endowment for McDonald Observatory Education and Outreach, the Lynn Lyles Brill Educational Endowment, and The Hugh Gragg Educational Endowment.
For more about the summer workshops at McDonald Observatory, please see:
Thanks to Generous Donors, K-12 Teachers Strengthen Teaching Skills at McDonald Observatory