2011 Annual Science Report

Carnegie Institution of Washington Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: First Light Saturday Science School

Project Progress

Carnegie Institution’s First Light Saturday Science School is a program for students in grades 6 through 8 who attend public and public charter schools in the District of Columbia. During the school year, First Light meets for three, 6-week sessions. Astrobiology is used as the overall theme and a different topic is explored in depth for each 6 week session. Students engage in experiential learning in both the laboratory and the field and each session includes an overnight trip. Over the past year, session topics were: 'Natures Patterns Around Us’, ‘Patterns in the Solar System’ and 'Rocketry: It’s Out of this World’. Students worked with community gardeners on planting and clean-up; planted, cared for and observed the growth patterns of forced bulbs, salad greens and mushrooms; met with scientists from a variety of NASA missions (including a Skype session about storms on Venus with a scientist in India for a conference!); ‘adopted’ a NASA mission and conducted research for an oral presentation on the adopted mission; constructed and tested their own Alpha 3 rockets and much more. First Light students also often meet with the scientists who are invited to lecture at the Carnegie Capital Science Evenings. A highlight in February 2011 was to meet informally with the ‘Three Cosmic Tenors’ (African American cosmologists and physicists James Gates, Larry Gladney, Herman White). Field excursions included an afternoon exploring the US Science and Engineering Festival on the National Mall, a trip to the Team America Rocketry Challenge competition and an overnight camping trip to Assateague Island State Park in Maryland to observe nature’s patterns at the coast. Approximately 20 students attend each session and most students return for multiple sessions throughout their middle school years.

First Light students wave for a 'thank you’ card which they then sent to the scientists who met with them prior to public lectures at Carnegie Institution