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Project ASTRO: Supporting Materials

Project ASTRO and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific have produced three publications and a video for which ordering information is available on the Web at http://www.aspsky.org/html/astro/pub.html. The contents of these resources are outlined below.

How-To Manual for Teachers and Astronomers. This 44-page manual is designed for both teachers and astronomers who are interested in becoming involved in the formal Project ASTRO program. It is also of great value for any teacher or astronomer (or scientist, in general) who wishes to form an effective teacher-scientist partnership. It has 11 chapters, all of which are filled with valuable information and suggestions:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction--What Is Project ASTRO? About the services provided to support teacher/astronomer partnerships and astronomy education, the materials Project ASTRO produces, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
  • Chapter 2: Kids and Science--The Project ASTRO Philosophy. Discusses the reasons for and ways of being a partner, the dividends teachers and astronomers may expect, and a variety of other positive results that may occur.
  • Chapter 3: Key Ideas about Partnerships. Ten ideas for making a partnership succeed and several additional ideas about communication and time considerations are provided and discussed.
  • Chapter 4: Finding a Partner (When There Is No Project ASTRO Site in Your Area). Provides, with discussion, two valuable lists of suggestions--one for astronomers (or other scientists) and one for teachers-- for finding a partner. Relevant addresses and phone numbers are provided.
  • Chapter 5: Partnership Strategies. Discusses many things that astronomers can do and the many ways that Project ASTRO partners have integrated astronomers' visits into school programs.
  • Chapter 6: Starting Your Partnership. Provides a number of useful lists and discussions, including a planning checklist, planning guidelines, and issues that the teacher and astronomer should discuss; attitudes that make for a successful partnership; what teachers should do before his or her astronomer-partner arrives; what astronomers should do during their first visit to their teacher-partner's classroom; common concerns of teacher-partners; and common concerns of astronomer-partners.
  • Chapter 7: Guidelines for Teachers. Provides a number of useful lists and discussions, including roles and responsibilities of teachers; tips for teachers; the differences between what professional and amateur astronomers will bring to the classroom; and interdisciplinary teaching ideas.
  • Chapter 8: Guidelines for Astronomers. Provides a number of useful lists and discussions, including roles and responsibilities of astronomers; general tips; specific tips on engaging students in the scientific process; tips on developing relationships with students; how to avoid gender and ethnic stereotyping; points to remember in contacting a teacher; suggestions for supporting the teacher; getting feedback from students; and tips on how to be effective in a classroom.
  • Chapter 9: Involving Families, Community, and the School. Provides a number of useful lists and discussions, including ideas for getting the school involved and for linking with outside resources; and ideas for involving families and the community in Project ASTRO activities.
  • Chapter 10: Ideas for Support and Publicity. Provides suggestions for getting support from school administrators and astronomers' employers and for getting publicity in the schools and in the community.
  • Chapter 11: Special Events and Good Ideas. Concludes with ideas for having a star party, for forming a school astronomy club, and for using telecommunications and astronomy software.

The manual is also filled throughout with case descriptions, example scenarios, and highly instructive reactions and advice from Project ASTRO teachers and astronomers.

The Universe at Your Fingertips: An Astronomy Activity and Resource Notebook. This mammoth 813-page loose-leaf notebook features several detailed astronomy resource guides, three informative articles, and a host of hands-on activities compiled from a variety of exemplary astronomy education projects around the country. It is distributed to all Project ASTRO participants. The notebook contains the following sections:

  • Section 1: Introduction. Includes a section on how to use the notebook.
  • Section 2: Astronomy Background. Includes a brief introduction to planets, stars, and galaxies, subsections on what astronomers do and on getting started in astronomy, and a brief glossary of commonly used astronomical terms.
  • Section 3: Teaching and Learning. Includes a subsection entitled "Teaching Astronomy and Science Education Reform" and another subsection entitled "Learning Astronomy: Insights from Research and Practice."
  • Section 4: Astronomy Activities. This overview section contains a glossary of science objectives, some sample sequences of activities, and a table of contents of subsections entitled "Our Moon's Phases and Eclipses," "The Sun and Seasons," "The Planets," "The Scale of the Solar System," "Comets and Meteors," "Star-finding and Constellations," "Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe," "Space Exploration and SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence)," "Tools of the Astronomer Debunking Pseudoscience," "Astronomy in Different Cultures," and "Interdisciplinary Teaching Ideas."
    Each subsection provides astronomy background on the topic, an overview of the activities and the grades for which each is appropriate, the activities themselves, ideas about extending or improving the activities, and resources for exploring related topics.
  • Section 5: Resources and Bibliographies. Eleven resource lists, bibliographies, and articles that cover a host of related subjects, from teaching astronomy to women in astronomy, computers and astronomy, and astronomy and space software.

"Partners in Learning." This12-minute video about Project ASTRO depicts some activities and comments by a variety of participants. It captures the excitement and learning experiences of the children, the satisfaction of the teachers, and the variety of rewards for the astronomer participants.

Universe in the Classroom. This free, quarterly newsletter is published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for elementary and secondary teachers who do not specialize in science. Each issue covers a specific astronomical topic and includes practical, easy-to-use classroom activities. For example, the Summer 1996 issue discusses light and electromagnetic radiation, then gives the teacher instructions for two simple classroom demonstrations: projecting a spectrum using a simple diffraction grating and investigating colors using inexpensive filters.

A subscription is free to teachers, librarians, and youth group leaders who request it anywhere in the world. All that is required is that the request be in writing and sent to the ASP on school or institutional letterhead. Presently 10,000 teachers in all 50 states and 70 countries subscribe.

In alternate issues of The Universe in the Classroom there appears The Earth in the Classroom, a similarly formatted newsletter devoted to the earth sciences and published by Byrd and Block Communications under a grant from the National Science Foundation.


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