Collaborative skygazing

November 3rd, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured by Christine Ruffo

Galileoscope sessionGalileo Galilei’s observations of night skies through a telescope helped change the perception of Earth’s role within the universe. Four hundred years later, the International Year of Astronomy 2009 is celebrating by working to put telescopes into the hands of as many people around the world as possible. A team of astronomers, optical engineers, and educators have designed the Galileoscope, an inexpensive, high-quality, easy-to-use refractor telescope that is powerful enough to allow users to examine lunar craters and mountains, Saturn’s rings, and countless stars invisible to the unaided eye.

In “Galileoscopes Around the World,” a November 3 session at ASTC 2009, attendees learned about collaborative skygazing that is happening around the world with the new telescopes. So far, 110,000 Galileoscopes have been produced and distributed, many through programs including ASTC’s Twinning project. After learning about the Galileoscopes and how they are being incorporated into programs, participants had a chance to try using one. They also were given the opportunity to apply on behalf of their institution for 100 free Galileoscopes to use with their visitors and teachers.

Stephen Pompea of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, Arizona, and Walter Staveloz of ASTC led the session. Other presenters were Robert Sparks of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and Margaret Glass of ASTC.

About the image: Stephen Pompea demonstrates how to assemble a Galileoscope.

Photo highlights—November 2, 2009

November 2nd, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference by Christine Ruffo

Between sessions, ASTC 2009 attendees explored the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and other nearby museums.

Sharing climate change activities

November 2nd, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference by Kate Crawford

In “Engaging Museum Audiences in Climate Change Science,” a session held November 2 at the ASTC Annual Conference, Katie Levedahl of the Sciencenter, Ithaca, New York, and four of Sciencenter’s partners in ASTC’s Communicating Climate Change (C3) Project discussed preliminary results from C3’s audience research and presented several of the project’s climate change activities.

Presenters included Kasey McCracken of David Heil & Associates and Susan Foster of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Education and Outreach program, as well as Leon Geschwind of the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii; Eric Havel  of Chabot Space & Science Center, Oakland, California; Rita Hoffstadt of the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia; and Debbie DeRoma of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego, California.

Participants were able to learn about the impact of their food choices, examine their home energy use choices, and play an interactive greenhouse gas game. These activities are available  on the IGLO website.

As part of ASTC’s focus on building online learning communities, the session will continue on ASTC Connect in 2010. This will allow presenters to gather feedback from participants who have made use of the toolkit in their own institutions and share this information with ASTC members who were unable to attend the conference session.

If you are interesting in participating in the online follow-up for this session, contact Kate Crawford at

Photo highlights—November 1, 2009

November 1st, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference by Christine Ruffo

Another great day at ASTC 2009! Here’s what happened:

All smiles

November 1st, 2009 - Posted in Annual Conference, Featured, Partners by Erin Van Rheenen

SMILEOn November 1, ASTC Annual Conference attendees had the opportunity take the new Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE) digital library for a spin. During an interactive workshop entitled “SMILE: Creating Community Around Digital Collections in Science Centers,” participants, each on his or her own laptop, learned how to create a SMILE account and how to search, collect, comment on, and share the math and science activities available in the library. Participants also learned more about seed grants (ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 each) that will be awarded to organizations that can contribute high-quality online resources to SMILE.

Even with the abundance of digital libraries now online, informal educators often have a hard time finding hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities created especially with them in mind. SMILE, part of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), aims to fill that gap. SMILE is collecting the best educational materials on the Web and creating learning activities, tools, and services—all designed for those that teach schoolage kids in nonclassroom settings. The program’s creators say they want to meet out-of-school educators where they live, so to speak, whether their “classroom” is a museum, an active volcano, the shark tank at the local aquarium, or (in the case of homeschoolers) their own backyard.

Coordinating the hands-on workshop were Keith Braafladt and Asia Ward of the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul. Session support was provided by Darrell Porcello and Joel Rosenberg of the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley; Erin Van Rheenen of the Exploratorium, San Francisco; and Tara Lang of the Children’s Museum of Houston, Texas.

Guest blogger Erin Van Rheenen is lead editor and metadata manager of SMILE and senior writer at the Exploratorium, San Francisco.

About the image: A workshop participant completes an activity listed in the SMILE digital library. Photo by Christine Ruffo

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