Astronomy Outreach: Adventures & Strategies


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A presentation about enhancing public outreach events that I gave at the 2006 Nebraska Star Party.

NOTE: Slide 44 (Planet Distance Chart), has a typo. It should read 1 AU = 9 FT.

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Astronomy Outreach: Adventures & Strategies

  1. 1. Adventures Strategies and Astronomy Outreach: Nov. 5 th , 2005, UNL
  2. 2. Disclaimer: <ul><li>The strategies discussed today do not cover building an outreach program. They are strategies to be used at events promoting astronomy education. </li></ul>NOTE: Old, cute, and possibly embarrassing photos present throughout.
  3. 3. Topics to cover <ul><li>How do people learn? </li></ul><ul><li>Astronomy as an active subject </li></ul><ul><li>Idea development </li></ul><ul><li>Astronomy Activities in detail </li></ul><ul><li>Personal Outreach Stories </li></ul>
  4. 4. How Do People Learn?
  5. 5. Howard Gardner <ul><li>Born 1943 </li></ul><ul><li>Psychologist at Harvard </li></ul><ul><li>Wrote “Frames of Mind” (1983) </li></ul><ul><li>Theory of Multiple Intelligences somewhat controversial </li></ul><ul><li>7 / 8 Intelligences </li></ul>© 2003 J. Gardner,
  6. 6. Multiple Intelligences <ul><li>Logical / Mathematical </li></ul><ul><li>Visual / Spatial </li></ul><ul><li>Interpersonal </li></ul><ul><li>Intrapersonal </li></ul><ul><li>Musical </li></ul><ul><li>Verbal </li></ul><ul><li>Bodily / Kinesthetic </li></ul><ul><li>Naturalist ( added in 1999) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Jean Piaget <ul><li>Born 1896 </li></ul><ul><li>Natural Scientist and Developmental Psychologist </li></ul><ul><li>Developed a theory on cognitive development </li></ul><ul><li>Important influence on educational psychology and the development of the human mind </li></ul><ul><li>On the Time 100 Scientists and Thinkers list </li></ul>
  8. 8. Piaget’s Theory <ul><li>Children have four stages of development </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Senserimoter (0-2 years old) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Preoperational (2-7 years old) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Concrete Operational (7-11 years old) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Formal Operational (after 11 years old) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ages reflect average ages. Variation does occur. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Using This Information <ul><li>Gardner </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Structuring outreach events to include multiple methods of processing information will increase the chances that more people (of all ages) will walk away remembering the new information. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Piaget </li></ul><ul><ul><li>When younger children are involved, active and/or hands-on activities are essential. Older children can handle abstract thought more efficiently as they get older. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Astronomy As An Active Subject
  11. 11. Think of the last astronomy activity you did besides observing.
  12. 12. Common Public Activities <ul><li>ABOVE ALL – OBSERVING </li></ul><ul><li>Movies </li></ul><ul><li>Lectures </li></ul><ul><li>Discussions </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstrations – usually telescope related </li></ul>
  13. 13. Possible Public Activities <ul><li>Building Models </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Take home models ($$$) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Large Scale ($) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Human models (Free) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Art </li></ul><ul><li>Hands-on demonstrations </li></ul><ul><li>Observing Projects </li></ul><ul><li>Research </li></ul><ul><li>????? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Models <ul><li>Take home models </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Costly in supplies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning impact more lasting </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Large scale models </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reusable supplies significantly reduce costs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Impressive” factor good for learning </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Human models </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use of audience personalizes learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Great for keeping attention of audience </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. The Sun The Moon The Earth A Human Model in Action
  16. 16. Art <ul><li>Drawing observations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Supplies easy to obtain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Easy to set up </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Easy to perform </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Something to take home </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Encourages better observing skills </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Models </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can be costly </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual & hands-on activity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reserve for small groups or astronomy camps </li></ul></ul>May 2, 2003
  17. 17. Hands-On Demonstrations <ul><li>Imagination is your limit </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple ways to process information </li></ul><ul><li>Costs depend on activity </li></ul><ul><li>Learning usually pays for costs </li></ul>FUN FOR ALL AGES
  18. 18. Observing Projects <ul><li>Can be simple or involved </li></ul><ul><li>Helps teach observing and measuring skills </li></ul><ul><li>Age does not matter </li></ul><ul><li>Great way to use the sky for activities </li></ul>
  19. 19. Research <ul><li>Tricky to perform, but involves heavier learning </li></ul><ul><li>Best used with high school and/or science focus groups (ex: Science Olympiad) </li></ul><ul><li>Can be performed as a “research style project” instead of doing actual research </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare for some work </li></ul><ul><li>Possible at younger age depending on project. </li></ul>
  20. 20. GLOBE At Night <ul><li>GLOBE At Night was an international observing effort to evaluate light pollution around the world. Observers young and old made visual observations of Orion between March 22 nd and 29 th , 2006, noting which stars they could see and their magnitudes. Observations were submitted online. Roughly 18,000 participants from 96 countries on six continents (Antarctica absent) made 4,591 nighttime observations. </li></ul><ul><li>Go to for more info </li></ul>
  21. 22. Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy Energy ENERGY
  22. 23. Idea Development
  23. 24. Important Questions <ul><li>Who – camp, scouts, school, church, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Age </li></ul><ul><li>Where – indoors, outdoors, park, yard, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>How long – 30 min., 1-2 hours, half the day, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Astronomy knowledge </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ What is the difference between an open and globular cluster?” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Hi. I’m a Leo. So what’s my future?” </li></ul></ul>
  24. 25. <ul><li>Ears </li></ul>Eyes Hands When planning an activity, consider the three most common ways people learn information.
  25. 26. Resources <ul><li>Internet </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching Aides </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers </li></ul><ul><li>NASA/JPL </li></ul><ul><li>Yourself </li></ul>
  26. 27. Astronomy Activities
  27. 28. Rockets <ul><li>Great way to discuss how we get into space </li></ul><ul><li>Build a launcher </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Simple and elaborate designs online </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Let audience build rockets (fins, nose cone, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Add water for splash factor in summer </li></ul><ul><li>Fire rocket </li></ul>
  28. 30. Crater Maker <ul><li>Simple supplies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Flour, dry chocolate milk powder, paper grocery sack, scissors, small step ladder and a variety of impacters (rocks and balls of varying size and weight) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Large rug/mat underneath if indoors </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Great for discussing how craters are made </li></ul><ul><li>Fun for all ages </li></ul>
  29. 31. Crater Maker Instructions <ul><li>Cut paper grocery bag, making it less than one foot tall (a small tote will work) </li></ul><ul><li>Pour flour into bag, filling it halfway </li></ul><ul><li>Pour a thin layer of dry chocolate powder on top </li></ul><ul><li>Set small step ladder next to bag </li></ul><ul><li>Stand on top step and drop/throw impactor into bag. </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss crater’s appearance </li></ul>
  30. 32. ASTRONOMY DAY 2004
  31. 34. Pictures <ul><li>Let people take photos using webcam/digital/ccd camera. </li></ul><ul><li>Moon is best and easiest subject for this </li></ul><ul><li>Can distribute photos to photographers using internet (website, e-mail) </li></ul><ul><li>Hand drawn easier to do, immediate results, plus can be done with any object </li></ul><ul><li>Both provide something to take home </li></ul>
  32. 35. Meghan Oct. 17 th , 2002 Jan 14, 2006 Sept. 27, 2005 March 25, 2002
  33. 36. Sun – Earth - Moon <ul><li>Pick three people, one for each object </li></ul><ul><li>Use volunteers to discuss moon phases and/or eclipses </li></ul><ul><li>Great 3-D model to help explain topics </li></ul><ul><li>Quick, simple, free </li></ul><ul><li>Useful for any audience </li></ul><ul><li>This was what we saw </li></ul><ul><li>in an earlier picture </li></ul>
  34. 37. Object Hunt <ul><li>Create a list of brighter, relatively easy to find DSO’s </li></ul><ul><li>Provide sky charts </li></ul><ul><li>Set up several easy to maneuver telescopes </li></ul><ul><li>Have people learn to use a scope by trying to find a single object </li></ul>
  35. 38. These Science Olympiad students are learning how to use a star atlas.
  36. 39. Solar System Models <ul><li>With smaller groups, building a take home model, and painting it, can be a fun way to learn about the planets; supplies will cost you </li></ul><ul><li>Large scale, outdoor models are easier to set up, cost much less, much more visible, and create a variety of topics to discuss. </li></ul>
  37. 41. Solar System Supplies <ul><li>Planets – bricks, marking flags, balls of various sizes </li></ul><ul><li>Measuring tape DON’T FORGET </li></ul><ul><li>Solar system maps and distances (examples on next two slides) </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Help if possible </li></ul><ul><li>Water…lots of water…if it’s hot out </li></ul><ul><li>Can add minor planets too. </li></ul>
  38. 42. Planet Distance Chart using 1 AU = 1 FT PLANET AU FROM SUN FT FROM SUN Mercury 0.46 4’ 1.68” Venus 0.72 6’ 5.76” Earth 1.02 9’ 2.16” Mars 1.66 14’ 11.28” Jupiter 5.41 48’ 8.28” Saturn 9.14 82’ 3.12” Uranus 20.08 180’ 8.64” Neptune 30.05 270’ 5.4” Pluto 31.14 280’ 3.12”
  39. 43. Planet Position Chart
  40. 44. Solar System Coloring Book <ul><li>found at Windows to the Universe website </li></ul>
  41. 45. Conclusion <ul><li>Astronomy outreach can be more than just observing and talking </li></ul><ul><li>Try to aim outreach to include at least one activity beyond observing </li></ul><ul><li>The most important thing to remember is that your audience will respond to you. Increase your enthusiasm, and they will increase theirs </li></ul>
  42. 46. Results <ul><li>For clubs, making an impact can increase the chances of someone taking up astronomy themselves (possible future member) </li></ul><ul><li>You have an increased chance that a donation will be made </li></ul><ul><li>Make enough of an impact, and word of mouth can result in further outreach requests </li></ul>
  43. 47. Resources <ul><li>Internet: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Windows to the Universe </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Heavens-Above </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Teaching sites </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Books: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Teaching Aides section of your local bookstore </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NASA/JPL – frequently provide teachers guides </li></ul></ul><ul><li>YOURSELF </li></ul>