The "Science in the Stratosphere" Program: Developing a Role for Airborne Astronomy in Elementary Science Education

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Session 34 -- Airbourne Astronomy
Display presentation, Tuesday, 9:30-6:30, Pauley Room

[34.04] The "Science in the Stratosphere" Program: Developing a Role for Airborne Astronomy in Elementary Science Education

D.Lester, M.Hemenway (University of Texas), P.Stryker (Barton Creek Elementary School), M.Willis (Grisham Middle School)

The Science in the Stratosphere program on the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO) is an opportunity for selected elementary and middle school teachers from the central Texas area to participate in airborne astronomy, working with researchers on the ground and in the air. Through their experiences, the excitement of hands-on space astronomy can be conveyed to their colleagues and students. These experiences serve as a vehicle for introducing many scientific concepts, as well as the planning, instrument development, cooperation and teamwork that are essential components of scientific research. The airborne setting instills this vignette of modern astronomical research with a spirit of exploration and excitement that inspires even the youngest schoolchildren.

The inaugural session of this program was held during the summer of 1992. Two school teachers with science specialization were chosen, at grade levels (K and 8) that spanned those targeted by the program. These teachers spent more than a week working with KAO visiting scientists and staff, learning about the research being done, and the operation of this remarkable observatory. Presentations based on their work were made at several science teacher workshops in the months following their trip, and curriculum development is in progress.

More so than any other NASA space astronomy facility, airborne telescopes are tangible, accessible, and highly visible. As space astronomy laboratories that are highly fault tolerant, such telescopes (the KAO now, to be followed by SOFIA later) are equipped with instrumentation that is at the leading edge of technology, and thus serve well as educational flagships for modern astronomy.

This program receives funds from the NASA Astrophysics AGSE program, and is sponsored by the McDonald Observatory of the University of Texas.

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