The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) Education and Public Outreach group has designed an outside-of-school education program to excite the interest of talented youth in big data projects like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the NOAO (archival) Data Lab. Originally funded by the LSST Corporation, the Teen Astronomy Café program cultivates talented youth to enter Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines and serves as a model to disseminate to other institutions.One Saturday a month during the academic year, high school students have the opportunity to interact with expert astronomers who work with large astronomical data sets. Students learn about killer asteroids, the birth and death of stars, colliding galaxies, the structure of the universe, gravitational lenses, dark energy, dark matter, and more. The format for the Saturday science cafés has been a short presentation, discussion (plus food), computer lab activity and more discussion (plus more food). They last about 2.5 hours and have been planned by a group of interested local high school students, an undergraduate student coordinator, the presenting astronomers, the program director and an evaluator. High school youth leaders help ensure an enjoyable and successful program for fellow students. They help their fellow students with the computer activities and help evaluate how well the café went. Their remarks help improve the next science café. The experience offers youth leaders ownership of the program, opportunities to take on responsibilities and learn leadership and communication skills, as well as foster their continued interests in STEM. Highlights from the extensive independent program evaluation from the January to May 2017 semester showed the program to be highly effective in exciting students about the process of science and the role of large datasets in astronomy investigations. The cafés demonstrated that the astronomers play a key role in increasing student interest and curiosity about their research and in helping students get a sense of scientists as people. The cafés also demonstrated that scientists can help students see how research connects with issues important to society, and with students' daily lives.
AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts
- Pub Date:
- December 2018
- 0805 Elementary and secondary education;
- EDUCATIONDE: 0815 Informal education;
- EDUCATIONDE: 0820 Curriculum and laboratory design;
- EDUCATIONDE: 0855 Diversity;