AAS 197, January 2001
Session 86. Innovations in Teaching Astronomy I
Joint Display, Wednesday, January 10, 2001, 9:30am-7:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[86.17] A Science Teacher's Workshop: ``What Do Astronomers Do?"

E. L. Gates, A. Misch, R. P. S. Stone (UCO/Lick Observatory)

We created a program to train K-12 teachers in the scientific method and critical thinking, using techniques of observational astronomy. Teachers were recruited from San Jose Unified School District (California) for intensive 2-day programs at Lick Observatory. Separate workshops were offered for K-5 and 6-12 teachers, with subsequent curriculum development sessions at the school district headquarters. These workshops allowed teachers to experience what professional astronomers do, and helped them incorporate that knowledge into their curricula.

After basic instruction in astronomy, the program emphasized how experiments are planned and executed. With subtle guidance, workshop participants themselves formulated an astronomical hypothesis, and acquired appropriate data with the 1-meter Nickel Reflector. We quickly reviewed data reduction steps with the class on their own data, then together we analyzed the resulting spectrographic data and imagery. We emphasized the widely applicable scientific method and reinforced critical thinking skills, as well as imparting significant astronomy-specific knowledge, technology, and techniques.

After each observatory workshop, a follow-up session assisted the participants to integrate their new knowledge into their current science curricula. Course materials, astronomical data, and resulting lesson plans will be compiled into a website, creating a substantial resource for science teachers in the San Jose area and elsewhere. We will discuss effectiveness of the workshops, and lessons learned by the presenters.

Our workshops were funded by NASA IDEAS grant ED-90181.01-98A.

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