Space Explorers: Astronomy Outreach at the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica

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Session 94 -- Education/Demonstrations
Oral presentation, Friday, January 14, 10:15-11:45, Salons A/B Room (Crystal City Marriott)

[94.05] Space Explorers: Astronomy Outreach at the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica

J. S. Sweitzer, D. A. Harper, L. Hawkins, R. G. Kron (U. Chicago), C. O. Brass and A. S. Whitt (Adler Planetarium)

The Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica (CARA) is an NSF Science and Technology Center that has been formed to take advantage of the South Pole as an observing site for infrared through millimeter wave astronomy. Besides its research mission, CARA conducts an educational outreach program for Chicago high school and grammar school students. The thirty high school students, called Space Explorers, participate in an intense, multi-year program at three locations: Yerkes Observatory, on the U. of Chicago campus, and at the Adler Planetarium.

The Space Explorers program multiplies its efforts through the teaching and mentoring that the high school students do for younger students. Space Explorers reach nearly seventy students in the middle grades by leading astronomy clubs established in the middle schools that feed their high schools. Their largest impact, in terms of total numbers, is the 2,700 grammar school students that the Space Explorers teach yearly with the Adler Planetarium's portable Starlab planetarium.

The alliance of three unique organizations within the structure of an NSF STC has made this program possible. The U. of Chicago's Office of Special Programs offers the link to the students, parents and schools. The Adler Planetarium brings to the program unique facilities and expertise in astronomy education. Finally, the scientists, both within CARA and recruited from other University departments, enable the use of the U. of Chicago scientific resources. The Space Explorers program has been translated to a Wisconsin school district and is being studied as a model outreach program by educational institutions in three large cities. It is also serving as an excellent test-bed for exploring electronic learning circles, project based learning and adventure learning.

This program is supported by NSF grant DPP-8920223 and NASA contract NAGW-3252.

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