AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 67 Reaching Out with Observatories, Planeteria and Activities
Poster, Tuesday, 9:20am-6:30pm, January 10, 2006, Exhibit Hall

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[67.05] Informal Activities with Lasers, Lights, and Lenses: The Hands-On Optics Project

S. M. Pompea, C. E. Sparks, R. T. Sparks (NOAO)

The Hands-On Optics project began as a follow-up to the 2001 NSF planning grant “Optics Education – A Blueprint for the 21st Century”, which described the value of informal science programs in addressing the disconnect between the ubiquity of optics in everyday life and the noticeable absence of optics education in K-12 curricula and in informal science education programs. Key partners in the project are NOAO, SPIE-The International Society for Optical Engineering, and the Optical Society of America (OSA). The informal instructional materials created by the project are distributed through science centers nationwide and through the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement Program (MESA) in a number of states, including Arizona, California, Washington, and Maryland. A key part of the project is the involvement, modeled after Project ASTRO, of optics professionals currently engaged in outreach activities and programs. Optics professionals (termed optics resource volunteers) are teamed with MESA and science center educators in implementing the program. These hands-on, high-interest, standards-connected activities and materials provide 6, three-hour-long optics activity modules that can be used in a variety of informal settings. We will describe the techniques used at NOAO to train educators, parents, and optics professionals who will work with the HOO activities as well as the different approaches needed for different informal education programs, ranging from Saturday programs, after-school programs, and science center programs. NOAO is developing the six modules and associated kits as well as competitions that have broad appeal to 12-year olds. Hands-On Optics: Making an Impact with Light (HOO) is a collaborative NSF-funded four-year informal science education program to excite students about science by actively engaging them in optics activities.

NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc. under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

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