Educational Programs at the Lake Afton Public Observatory

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Session 18 -- Astronomers Outside the University
Oral presentation, Monday, 30, 1994, 10:00-11:30

[18.03] Educational Programs at the Lake Afton Public Observatory

D. R. Alexander (Wichita St. Univ. \& Lake Afton Public Obs.), G. R. Novacek (Lake Afton Public Obs.)

The Lake Afton Public Observatory was founded 14 years ago as a joint project of the city, county, local schools, and Wichita State University to provide educational programs for the public and school children. A staff of 4 professional astronomers presents daytime and evening programs at the Observatory and makes presentations in schools to over 20,000 people per year. Programs are scheduled 6 days a week during the academic year and 3 days a week in the summer.

Our public programs deviate significantly from the traditional observatory open house by following a specific theme. Selection and discussion of each object is centered on that theme. For example, a program on The Life Story of a Star would view a diffuse nebula (to discuss star formation), a young star cluster (to discuss one outcome of star formation), a double star (to discuss how the properties of stars are determined), and a planetary nebula (to discuss the death of a star).

To complement the observing experiences of our visitors, we have developed a wide range of interactive exhibits to develop the concepts touched on in the viewing programs. We have also developed exhibit lending kits for extended use in school classrooms, educational games, activity manuals for teachers, and short videos to introduce single concepts in the classroom. In the past year we have begun to offer a series of workshops for in-service teachers to expand their knowledge of astronomy and to provide them with additional resources for teaching astronomy.

This work is supported in part by NSF EPSCoR grant OSR-9255223.

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