AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 70. Astronomy and Education
Display, Wednesday, June 2, 1999, 10:00am-6:30pm, Southwest Exhibit Hall

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[70.15] A Successful Approach to Involving Teachers in the Use of a Starlab Portable Planetarium

W. Herbst (Wesleyan U.), H. Garavel (Anna Reynolds School, Newington, CT)

An IDEAS grant from NASA was used to purchase a Starlab Portable Planetarium from Learning Technologies, Inc. in May, 1997. One of us (WH) taught a one-week summer workshop for 20 teachers from around the State of Connecticut in July of that year and again last summer. These workshops were sponsored by the Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS), which is based at Wesleyan University and supports teacher training efforts in math and science state-wide. We made use of the PASS manuals (Lawrence Hall of Science and New York Hall of Science) on activities for portable planetaria, the Universe at Your Fingertips (Fraknoi, ASP) and the extensive handbook created at the Space Center in Alamagordo, New Mexico (K. Hitchcock et al.). The contributions of an experienced high school physics teacher and AAS Teacher Resouce Agent, Joseph Wesney, of Cos Cob Connecticut, also proved pivotal to the success of the one-week workshop. The teachers were at the middle school and high school level and most had little or no previous experience in teaching astronomy. The course, for which they or their districts pay a modest fee, provided them with the UAYF and other resources and guaranteed access to the planetarium in their schools for at least a one week period. Since all locations in CT are within about 1.5 hour driving time of Wesleyan, we have chosen not to deliver the Starlab to the schools but to require the teachers to get it and return in to Wesleyan themselves. We simply schedule its use in one week blocks on a first-come first-served basis. This has worked remarkably well and teachers are continuing to use the Starlab in their schools over multiple years. They usually do programs not just for their own classes, but for the whole school and sometimes also at night for PTO groups. One of us (HG) was a student in the first year and subsequently received a Christa McAuliffe Fellowship to purchase her own starlab and spend a sabbatical year taking it to schools around CT. This has led to the development of additional teaching strategies and activities and, especially, to the recognition that the Starlab can be successfully used in the lower grades - even including grade one. Some of the activities and approaches of the program will be displayed and, perhaps, demonstrated if a Starlab is available. We thank the IDEAS program for their support, without which this program would never have happened.

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