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Session 21 - Amateurs & Professionals: Collaborators in the New Age of Electronic Astronomy - I.
Oral session, Tuesday, June 10
North Main Hall C/D,

[21.10] Research Experiences for 14 Year Olds: preliminary report on the `Sky Explorer' pilot program at Springfield (MA) High School of Science and Technology

G. E. Tucker (Boston Engineering Services)

This NSF supported program, emphasizing hands-on learning and observation with modern instruments, is described in its pilot phase, prior to being launched nationally. A group of 14 year old students are using a small (21 cm) computer controlled telescope and CCD camera to do: a 'sky survey' of brighter celestial objects, finding, identifying, and learning about them, and accumulating a portfolio of images, (2) photometry of variable stars, reducing the data to get a light curve, and (3) learn modern computer-based communication/dissemination skills by posting images and data to a Web site they are designing ( sky) and contributing data to archives (e.g. AAVSO) via the Internet.

To attract more interest to astronomy and science in general and have a wider impact on the school and surrounding community, peer teaching is used as a pedagogical technique and families are encouraged to participate. Students teach e.g. astronomy, software and computers, Internet, instrumentation, and observing to other students, parents and the community by means of daytime presentations of their results (images and data) and evening public viewing at the telescope, operating the equipment themselves.

Students can contribute scientifically significant data and experience the ‘discovery’ aspect of science through observing projects where a measurement is made. Their ‘informal education’ activities also help improve the perception of science in general and astronomy in particular in society at large.

This program could benefit from collaboration with astronomers wanting to organize geographically distributed observing campaigns coordinated over the Internet and willing to advise on promising observational programs for small telescopes in the context of current science.

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