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L. Mayo, S. Odenwald (Raytheon ITSS), C. Lundberg (Sligo Creek Elementary), A. Dimarco (Greenwood Elementary)
``At the elementary school level, children are motivated by two things, dinosaurs and space" (Dr. Harold Williams, Montgomery College Planetarium Director). Yet, many elementary school science objectives include only the most basic astronomical concepts. Some ignore the subject all together in favor of more traditional courses (e.g. math and reading) or Earth science based curricula such as weather and local ecosystems. In addition, most elementary school teachers are unfamiliar with astronomical concepts and are poorly equipped to teach the subject. With teacher requirements increasing due to increasing class sizes, state competency exams, and a back to basics political climate, there is often little room to capitalize on the natural sense of curiosity children have about the universe during the normal school day. An after school astronomy club can provide a solution.
In this paper, we present a model for setting up and running an after school astronomy club for students in grades 3-6. Our model was developed at two Maryland schools, Sligo Creek Elementary and Holy Redeemer Elementary/Middle School and incorporates national education standards as well as NASA OSS guidelines for effective education outreach programs. We propose here, a Community Based Learning (CBL) approach with the goal of engaging multiple elements of the community in the learning process including local amateur astronomy clubs, industry, community colleges, parents, and teachers. Methods for using astronomy as a basis for teaching reading, writing, math, and presentation skills are introduced. Resources, teaching methods, preparation guidelines, discipline, and safety are discussed and a list of grade appropriate, hands-on astronomy activities is presented along with procedures and expected outcomes.