Enlightening Lightning! Coupling Earth Systems Research to K-12 Education Using Planetarium Presentations
This is a two-year project to produce a curriculum ensemble on the topic of thunderstorms and lightning for middle school students (grades 5 through 8). A multi-media visual program has been developed for presentation in a planetarium setting, along with companion written and laboratory materials designed for classroom use. This is a pilot project with three overriding objectives. First, we have created materials to educate students in the fundamental concepts of thunderstorm and lightning processes. Second, we have demonstrated the capacity of the planetarium as an out-of-classroom milieu for learning and teaching about the physical systems of the atmosphere and earth. Third, we have developed this curriculum ensemble as the first in a series of planetarium-based programs addressing the middle school science curriculum standards related to the study of the global climate and hydrologic systems. These objectives directly support national goals to improve education in science and mathematics, advance the sense of excitement in students of all ages regarding the study of science and mathematics, and bring innovative science and math learning experiences to all students, including minority and other populations with scarce educational resources. This project provides an innovative way for students to learn about thunderstorms and lightning (and later, about other earth and atmospheric processes), including both basic information and current scientific research.