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Project ASTRO/Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Key Features

A key feature of Project ASTRO of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) is the forging of ongoing volunteer partnerships between an amateur or professional astonomer and one or two elementary or middle school teachers. At various sites across the country, Project ASTRO provides intensive two-day workshops for astronomers and their teacher-partners. Then, each astronomer begins his or her teamwork with his or her teacher(s). Teamwork includes preparing for at least four classroom visits per year and participation in community activities during which the astronomers interact directly with students, families, and teachers other than their partners. All is supported by extensive materials produced by Project ASTRO and designed to encourage use of hands-on, inquiry-centered activities.

A second key feature of Project ASTRO is how it is scaling up with help from the National Science Foundation, from a project being piloted in California to a project with a national network of sites. At the time this Web site was created, there were six sites in the network, in San Francisco, Chicago, Tucson, Seattle, northern New Mexico, and the state of Connecticut. New sites in the network, called "expansion sites," are managed by lead institutions, such as local colleges and universities, and supported by the national Project ASTRO office in San Francisco.

Project ASTRO remains committed to a number of schools in California. In fact, the program is present in over 150 schools across the state. Some independent sites also exist with university or college ties but without support from NSF and with minimal support from the national Project ASTRO office. These sites are in Stockton, California; Sacramento; and Las Vegas.

Becoming Involved

  • Astronomers living in California outside of San Francisco as well as in the Bay Area or in Chicago, Tucson, Seattle, northern New Mexico, or Connecticut can become directly involved in Project ASTRO. Astronomers in Stockton, California; Sacramento; and Las Vegas can become involved in Project ASTRO-like sites.
  • Astronomers living elsewhere can initiate a similar, albeit solo, involvement in science education in the schools or lead formation of a Project ASTRO expansion site.
  • For scientists and scientific societies with similar goals, Project ASTRO of the ASP is an example of genuine partnerships between scientists and teachers; of well-developed materials and how to use them; and of the long and painstaking process that is required when pilot projects scale up to go national.

Overview

Goals and Organizational Information and Contacts. Project ASTRO's goals are
  • to increase the interest in and knowledge of astronomy (and, by extension, other sciences) among children, their teachers, and their families
  • to support teachers in a variety of ways by partnering them with astronomers
  • to increase the effectiveness of astronomers' participation in K-12 education

Project ASTRO is a project of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), the largest general astronomy society in the world.

Details

Structure and Scope of Project ASTRO. Project ASTRO is operated at a number of regional sites by lead institutions in coalition with other local astronomical and educational organizations. Overall direction, start-up funding, and technical support are provided by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific office in San Francisco.

Details

Supporting Materials. The ASP has produced a short and very readable How-To Manual for Teachers and Astronomers. There is also a 813-sheet loose-leaf collection of teaching ideas, activities, and resources designed to support astronomer/teacher partnerships. A 12-minute videotape about Project ASTRO and a free newsletter for teachers on teaching astronomy in grades 3-12 are available.

Details

Grade Range. Project ASTRO is focused on grades 4-9 because its founders and staff believe that astronomy has great and broad appeal and can therefore help to counteract the documented loss of interest in science that can occur in this grade range.

Details

Teacher-Astronomer Partnerships. Teachers for grades 4-9 are selected by competitive application and partnered with amateur or professional astronomers. The partners are trained together as teams at intensive two-day workshops.

Details

Astronomer Roles and Activities. Astronomer partners, in close cooperation with their teacher partners, lead students in educational activities at least four times a year, sometimes as often as once a week. The activities occur both inside and outside the classroom and often involve families as well as students. The astronomers may also help the teachers determine the scope and sequence of an astronomy unit, arrange field trips and school-wide "star parties," provide in-service training for other teachers in the school, and make presentations at school board meetings.

Details

Partnering by Individual Astronomers. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) provides one-day workshops at professional and amateur astronomy meetings for astronomers who want to participate in K-12 education but who do not live near a Project ASTRO site. ASP will provide additional support to these astronomers, as well.

Details

Impact of Project ASTRO -- Results of the Original Pilot Project. An in-depth evaluation of the original pilot project at numerous sites in Northern and Southern California reported many positive results, including solid partnerships and a variety of positive effects on all the participants -- the students, teachers, astronomers, and community.

Details

Expansion Sites and Lead Institutions. The key to expanding Project ASTRO from a pilot project in California to a project with a presence in many sections of the country was the decision to have a lead institution at each new site. The lead institution can be any of a variety of organizations, from a college, university, or science center to a school district or amateur astronomy club. Lead institutions are selected by application to the national Project ASTRO office in San Francisco and receive financial and technical support. The lead institutions are responsible for building the necessary local coalitions with, for example, museums, science centers, and astronomy clubs and running the project in their area.

Details

Independent ASTRO-like Projects. At a few sites in California and Nevada, lead-like institutions have started ASTRO-like projects with a small amount of technical support but no financial support from Project ASTRO. Project ASTRO is looking for efficient ways to foster and support such efforts.

Details

Chronology of Project ASTRO. A simple chronology of the Project ASTRO is provided. The time frame for the scaling up from pilot project to expansion sites is shown.

Details


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