Collaboration Between Astronomers at UT Austin and K-12 Teachers: Connecting the Experience of Observing and Research with the Classroom
McDonald Observatory has a long history of providing teacher professional development (PD), and recently we have developed a new workshop model for more advanced participants. By choosing a select group of middle and high school teachers from those previously involved in our past PD programs, we have created a joint workshop / observing run program for them. After traveling to the observatory, the teachers participate in an actual observing run with a research astronomer. The teachers are trained first-hand how to take observations, operate the telescope, set up the instrument, and monitor observing conditions. The teachers are fully put in the role of observer. They are also given background information before and during the workshop related to the science and data they are helping to collect. The teachers work in teams to both perform the nightly observations with an astronomer, but to also perform new interactive classroom activities with education staff, and use other telescopes on the mountain. This is a unique experience for teachers since it allows them to take the resources and experiences directly back to their classrooms and students. They can directly relate to their students what skills for specific careers in STEM fields are needed. Evaluation from these workshops shows that there is: increased content knowledge among participants, greater impact that will be passed on to their students, and an authentic research experience that can't be replicated in other PD settings. In addition, not only is this program beneficial to the teachers, but this group is benefit to the education program of McDonald Observatory. Building on an existing PD program (with a 16 year history) we have the opportunity to test out new products and new education endeavors with this devoted group of well-trained teachers before bringing them to wider teacher and student audiences.
Finkelstein, K. D., Sneden, C., Hemenway, M. K., Preston, S., & EXES Teachers Associate Program. (2015). Collaboration Between Astronomers at UT Austin and K-12 Teachers: Connecting the Experience of Observing and Research with the Classroom (Vol. 225, p.