2010 Annual Science Report

Pennsylvania State University Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

EPO Activity: EPO: Summer Science Workshops for Educators

Project Progress

In summer 2010, in collaboration with the PA Space Grant Consortium, the PSARC E/PO team hosted two astrobiology-related workshops for in-service K-12 educators at The Pennsylvania State University. The workshops were “Telescopes: Tools for Astronomical Discovery and the Search for Life on Other Planets” and “Lunar Exploration: Taking Earth Science to the Moon”.

20 teachers participated in the “Telescopes” workshop. This five-day, 2-graduate credit workshop was designed to explore how astronomy is different than most sciences. Astronomers rarely get to design their own experiments, instead, we rely on the universe to set them up for us, and we use telescopes to observe the results. In this course, teachers built simple telescopes, investigated how to use more sophisticated telescopes, and learned the technology behind the latest billion dollar class instruments used for modern research. Teachers investigated the properties of telescopes (magnification, field of view, light gathering power, and angular resolution), took digital images, and learned how to make measurements from astronomical images. The teachers were introduced to the field of astrobiology and participated in activities from the “Life on Earth and Elsewhere” Educator Resource Guide.

17 teachers participated in the “Lunar Exploration” workshop. This five-day, 2-graduate credit workshop was designed to use the excitement of NASA’s plans to explore the moon, Mars and the solar system to inspire and educate students about earth and space science. The workshop applied earth science concepts to address solar system formation, past and future exploration missions, and technologies for colonization and what life could possibly already exist in our solar system. The teachers participated in activities from the “Life on Earth and Elsewhere” Educator Resource Guide. Strategies for classroom implementation were highlighted as well as best practices in teaching.

Support to teachers included housing, meals and partial travel support as well as materials (and a telescope) to take back to their classrooms. Also tuition for two graduate credits was provided. The workshop was approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Act 48 Professional Development credit.

The workshop evaluation included a daily formative evaluation, an online summative professional development questionnaire developed by the Horizon Research, Inc. and a small focus group discussion. The evaluation techniques were intended to measure the effectiveness of workshop design for increasing teacher content knowledge and improving student learning in the middle and secondary classroom.