ASKC Education & Public Outreach Opportunities 2010


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I’m a board member-at-large who recently volunteered to step into a vacancy as chair of the Education Department for the ASKC. This article is the presentation I gave at the January 2010 ASKC General Membership Meeting.

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  • I’m a board member-at-large who recently volunteered to step into a vacancy as chair of the Education Department for the ASKC. This presentation should run about 10 minutes. Article Two of our bylaws state: “The purpose of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City shall be to further interest and education in astronomy and related sciences.” You will notice that the things I talk about in the E/PO area touch on just about everything we do as an organization.
  • There are people in this room who were better amateur astronomers than I will ever be 25 years ago. We have enormous reserves of expertise to draw on, and I want to draw on as many of them as possible. As a result of all that expertise, we have lots of existing resources that should not be re-created, although they may be revised and re-used. I think we should try to improve everything we do, and recognize that there is no “end state” where we can rest on our laurels, so to speak. There are tremendous opportunities for standardization and modularization of our presentation materials. We should try to staff as many events in as many places as possible and help the organizers of those events to get as many people as possible to show up. The ASKC is at the cutting edge of science E/PO in the KC metro. No one else is in a position to do all that we do.
  • This is a very preliminary interrelationship diagram that I threw together on my own in just a few minutes. Even a small meeting of knowledgable people could greatly improve on it. Having said that, here’s how I broke it down: we have internal-to-ASKC or external events. The main internal event is the GM, but there are other types, and ASKC-only events at Powell as well. There is some seasonality to these. External events can also be at Powell or off-sites. A plurality of these are Scouting-related, and a plurality of the remainder are school-related; in either case, curriculum requirements significantly affect what we do. Again, this is far from comprehensive.
  • To begin more fully identifying our opportunities and bringing our experience and knowledge to bear, I believe we should begin creating several databases. One would be a database of astronomical events, whether annual or occurring at some other interval. This information is readily available for as far in the future as we would need – years to decades. We would use it to plan special events at Powell or elsewhere and promote them with plenty of lead time. A shorter-term database would list organizational events. These would not generally be known more than a year in advance, but the database would greatly assist us in adequately staffing and developing appropriate presentations for the events.
  • We should also create a database of our presentations, which are one of our greatest assets as an organization. More properly, the database would list modules of a few PowerPoint slides apiece that would cover many different topics, but with a consistent look and feel – the one I happen to favor being on display in this deck – and that could be easily mixed-and-matched into a full presentation suitable for any group or event. I am not a graphic artist. Whatever “consistent look & feel” we go with should be based on input from people knowledgeable about such things.
  • We have many instructional items that aren’t PowerPoint decks. Internal training is, in its own way, just as important as any educational activity we do for the public. We have a nontrivial physical plant to take care of in the form of Powell Observatory. We have various props in the Powell classroom and probably elsewhere, and I expect there is a whole category of items used for Scout groups.
  • As alluded to earlier, we have many, many subject-matter experts in this organization, and here I’m suggesting that we move a bit beyond “tribal knowledge” and expand our existing rosters into more information about more people and more ways they can help – not only inside the organization, but as an interface with the media as well.
  • Many of our “customers,” especially in the form of school and Scouting groups, have their own standards for the type and quality of information they would like to have imparted to their students or members. We should not only have internal standards, like the look-and-feel of PowerPoint decks I mentioned earlier, but gather as much external requirement information as possible. This database, once built, should be relatively static and easy to use for feedback into our presentation modules and other materials.
  • Now to work just a little bit of a live example, here are some opportunities I foresee for 2010. We’re starting to get some sunspots back after a long dry spell. Late in the year, there’s a total lunar eclipse that will be visible here in its entirety, weather permitting. The Perseid meteor shower occurs during a waxing crescent Moon this year, and the Lyrids and Geminids may be worth promoting as well. Mars is just past opposition right now. Saturn will be viewable in the early evening during spring and summer. Mercury has a favorable apparition in April. Jupiter will be viewable in early evening from early autumn on. A periodic comet should be naked-eye visible, and easy in binoculars, this October. I’m sure most of you are aware of the seasonal asterisms, constellations, and deep-sky objects we can build programs and presentations around every year. When we database all this, we should categorize it by relative ease of observation. Keep in mind that other than those who are already amateur astronomers, very few people can reliably identify any celestial object other than the Sun and the Moon.
  • Obviously all this isn’t something we’re going to knock out in the next couple of months. I do not have any grand strategy for completing major milestones by specific dates. All I’m suggesting right now is think about it and get back to me at this e-mail address if you’d like to help. I will upload this presentation to SlideShare in the near future and post the link out on the ASKC Yahoo! Group. Questions?
  • ASKC Education & Public Outreach Opportunities 2010

    1. 1. Education & Public Outreach (E/PO) Opportunities ASKC Education Department January 2010
    2. 2. Ground Rules <ul><li>I don’t know everything (crowdsourcing). </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t reinvent the wheel (existing resources). </li></ul><ul><li>Do continuously improve everything. </li></ul><ul><li>Standardize and modularize! </li></ul><ul><li>Maximize coverage of, and attendance at, events. </li></ul><ul><li>Act like the premier lay scientific organization in KC. Because we are! </li></ul>
    3. 3. Interrelationship Diagram Internal External Powell Gen’l Mtg Off-Sites other Seasonal Curricula Scouting other Schools ASKC Education & Public Outreach Very preliminary!
    4. 4. Databases of Events <ul><li>Astronomical </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Annual – seasonal skies, meteor showers, etc </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other Periodic – moon phases, planetary visibility, eclipses, solar maxima, periodic comets, etc </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Organizational </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Scout campouts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>School science nights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Databases of Instructional Items <ul><li>PowerPoint presentations – modules for: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ASKC commercial </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Seasonal constellations and deep-sky objects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Telescopes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Powell Observatory history/activities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Special topics (Sun, Moon, planets, meteors) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Consistent look & feel </li></ul><ul><li>Easy customization & professional appearance </li></ul>
    6. 6. Databases of Instructional Items <ul><li>Train-the-trainer program </li></ul><ul><li>Keyholder training materials </li></ul><ul><li>AIC training </li></ul><ul><li>Maintenance documentation for Powell Obs </li></ul><ul><li>Props/object lessons (anything non-PPT) </li></ul><ul><li>Scouting materials </li></ul>
    7. 7. Database of SMEs <ul><li>Keyholders </li></ul><ul><li>AICers </li></ul><ul><li>Topical </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Observation area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Imaging </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meteorites </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Media interviewees/spokespeople </li></ul><ul><li>Media contacts (“friends of ASKC”) </li></ul>
    8. 8. Database of Requirements <ul><li>Internal ASKC standards for E/PO </li></ul><ul><li>State science standards </li></ul><ul><li>School district curricula </li></ul><ul><li>Scouting awards </li></ul><ul><li>Other </li></ul>
    9. 9. 2010 E/PO Opportunities <ul><li>Solar – gradual increase in activity (Cycle 24) </li></ul><ul><li>Lunar – total eclipse on night of Dec 20/21 </li></ul><ul><li>Meteor showers – Perseids, Aug 12; others </li></ul><ul><li>Planets – Mars in Jan/Feb, Saturn Mar-Aug, Mercury in Apr, Jupiter Sep-Dec </li></ul><ul><li>Comet – 103/P Hartley, 5 th mag in Oct </li></ul><ul><li>Seasonal constellations & deep-sky objects </li></ul><ul><li>Categorize by unaided eye / binocular / telescopic </li></ul>
    10. 10. Interested? <ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>