AAS 206th Meeting, 29 May - 2 June 2005
Session 5 Public Observatories and Informal Astronomy
Poster, Monday, 9:20am-6:30pm, Tuesday, 10:00am-7:00pm, May 30, 2005, Ballroom A

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[5.02] Hands-On Optics: An Informal Education Program for Exploring Light and Color

S. M. Pompea, C. E. Walker (NOAO), C. C. Peruta, B. A. Kinder, J. C. Aceituno, M. A. Pena (University of Arizona)

Hands-On Optics (HOO) is a collaborative four-year program to create and sustain a unique, national, informal science education program to excite students about science by actively engaging them in optics activities. It will reach underrepresented middle school students in after-school programs and at hands-on science centers nationwide. Project partners with NOAO are SPIE-The International Society for Optical Engineering, the Optical Society of America (OSA), and the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement Program (MESA) of California. This program builds on the 2001 National Science Foundation planning grant (number ESI-0136024), Optics Education - A Blueprint for the 21st Century, undertaken to address 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. NOAO - with expertise in teaching optics, developing optics kits, and in science-educator partnerships is designing the HOO instructional materials by adapting well-tested formal education activities on light, color, and optical technology for the informal setting. These hands-on, high-interest, standards-connected activities and materials serve as the basis for 6, three-hour-long optics activity modules that will be used in informal education programs at 23 HOO host sites. NOAO also will train the educators, parents, and optics professionals who will work in teams to lead the HOO activities. A key component of the project will be the optics professionals from the two optical societies who currently are engaged in outreach activities and programs. Optics professionals will serve as resource agents teamed with science center and MESA educators, a model very successfully used by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's Project ASTRO.

The six modules and associated challenges and contests address reflection from one or many mirrors, image formation, colors and polarization, ultraviolet and infrared phenomena, and communication over a beam of light. Challenges and contests have also been created to augment the six modules.

The Hands On Optics Project is funded by the National Science Foundation ISE program. 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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