AAS 200th meeting, Albuquerque, NM, June 2002
Session 48. Public Outreach
Display, Tuesday, June 4, 2002, 10:00am-6:30pm, SW Exhibit Hall

[Previous] | [Session 48] | [Next]

[48.02] Sunwheels for the 21st Century

J.S. Young (Dept. of Astronomy, Univ. of Mass., Amherst, MA)

Stone circles are found world-wide, many of which have astronomical alignments and serve as calendars -- they are the original observatories. To help the general public, K-12 students, and University students taking Astronomy to experience and understand the cycles exhibited by the Sun and Moon and the cause of the seasons, I began creating a stone circle, which I call a Sunwheel, on the U.Mass. Amherst campus in 1992. The preliminary Sunwheel was installed in May 1997, consisting of a dozen 2-3' high boulders in a circle 100' across and funded by a grant from the University. Stones mark N, S, E, and W, as well as the summer and winter solstice sunrise and sunset directions and the central viewing area. In 1999, the NSF granted funds to cover the cost of 8'-10' tall standing stones at the U.Mass. Sunwheel. The installation of these monoliths, numbering 14 and weighing a total of 56 tons, took place Nov. 6-9, 2000.

With the placement of the first stones, the Sunwheel became an active arena for enhancing the K-16 science curriculum and for public outreach. Students in my Astronomy class observe the changing sunset location from the Sunwheel and map out the ecliptic. Each year, over 300 students and teachers and ~1000 members of the general public attend presentations I give at the Sunwheel. In addition, ~3000 people sign in the guest book at the site each year. Stories about the Sunwheel have been sent world-wide through the Associated Press, and a report about the Sunwheel aired recently on 'All Things Considered'. The Sunwheel is valuable because it takes a complex scientific phenomenon and puts it into an everyday context which people of all ages can experience and understand for themselves. Visitors learn how the Sun's position in the sky changes with the seasons, thus exciting curiosity, enhancing science literacy, and encouraging everyone to pay closer attention to the world around.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://www.umass.edu/sunwheel. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

[Previous] | [Session 48] | [Next]

Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34
© 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.