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«Volume 1 - Winter 2007 In This Issue STARLAB e-News is Here! STARLAB Funding Finder ● ● STARLAB for Mathematics Education Ask the Editor ● ● ...»

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Volume 1 - Winter 2007

In This Issue

STARLAB e-News is Here! STARLAB Funding Finder

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STARLAB for Mathematics Education Ask the Editor

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STARLAB Activity: How Many Stars Are in the The Inside Scoop from LTI

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Sky? The Digital Dish: Latest News on Digital ● "Astronomy Ignoramus" Shares Her Love for STARLAB ● Astronomy Meeting the National Standards with Project STAR ● STARLAB Tips: First-time User Planning Workshop & Convention Calendar ● ● New Ideas Under the Dome Bulletin Board ● ● Planet Positions & Moon Phases ● It's Back! STARLAB e-News is Here.

Welcome! After a brief hiatus, STARLAB News (now called STARLAB e-News) is back in its new electronic form. As in past versions, the newsletter is filled with information on STARLAB — activities, news from fellow STARLAB users, workshops & convention listings, tips, funding information, new products, and more — as well as general astronomy-related news items. This inaugural electronic version features an article written by our editor, Gary D. Kratzer, who is a science teacher from Sulphur, Louisiana, on how STARLAB can be used for the teaching of mathematics. We hope you enjoy! As always, we welcome your ideas and input. Keep it coming!

STARLAB for Mathematics Education by Gary D. Kratzer In past issues we have looked at the ways STARLAB is used for literacy and social studies (see archives). Now in this issue, we will spotlight the way STARLAB can make mathematics education come alive for students.

Why Mathematics is Important "Excellence in mathematics education requires equity – high expectations and strong support for all students."

— The Equity Principle, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Mathematics is the study of form, quantity and magnitude of numbers. All students need access each year to a coherent, challenging mathematics curriculum that is taught by competent and well supported mathematics teachers.

Some students may need more than an ambitious curriculum and excellent teaching to meet high expectations and excite them about math. Effective mathematics teaching requires understanding what students know and need to learn and then challenging and supporting them to learn it well.

STARLAB and Mathematics

STARLAB, can play an essential tool in teaching and learning mathematics effectively. It can reinforce and make more concrete mathematics concepts that are taught in a classroom or from a textbook thereby enhancing student learning. Powerful tools that offer visual representation provide students access to mathematical content and contexts that would otherwise be too complex for them to explore. STARLAB can facilitate students’ achievement of a variety of higher-order learning outcomes, such as reflection, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Additionally, students with physical challenges can become much more engaged in mathematics using STARLAB.

For those of you familiar with STARLAB and the wide array of projection cylinders, there are several projections that lend themselves quite well to mathematics education. The Northern and Southern Starfield Cylinders provide students opportunities to classify stars by brightness, find geometric shapes in the sky, and measure the angular distances between celestial bodies. Students can be challenged to find ways of determining the numbers of stars in the sky. Using the Celestial Coordinates Cylinder, students make clear connections between finding objects in the sky in the same fashion as finding geographic locations on Earth. The Earth Cylinder allows students to estimate distances between geographic locations, measure the distances on the dome, and calculate those distances knowing the scale of the dome.

The Digital STARLAB opens up a vast new universe of mathematical studies. The operating software, Starry Night Small Dome™, is virtually unlimited in its capability to explore angular distances, angular sizes, and distances of celestial bodies. The Digital STARLAB can project many of the images that has made the Standard STARLAB system so popular for the last 30 years lending a whole new dimension to these beloved standard activities — they are completely enhanced or remodeled for the Digital’s unbounded capabilities!

Now let us take a look at how some novel programs around the country are using STARLAB in the pursuit of mathematical excellence.

SEMAA Program — Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee

Greg Henry, an astronomer at Tennessee State University (TSU) located in Nashville, was the first scientist to directly detect a planet orbiting a star outside our solar system.� This discovery in late 1999 brought worldwide attention to TSU and helped develop research and educational programs in astrobiology. The largest educational program to be developed is the NASA-based Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) program at TSU (www.SEMAAnashville.com).� This program, the SECME/TSU SEMAA program is a partnership between the NASA Glenn Research Center, SECME, Inc., a premier pre-college science education alliance located at Georgia Institute of Technology and TSU.� The goal of the SEMAA program is to inspire the next generation of explorers. There are 17 SEMAA programs nationwide (www.semaa.net) and several have a STARLAB as part of their program.� Under the direction of Dr. Todd Gary since July of 2004, more than 5,000 TSU students and parents have participated in the SEMAA program held on Saturdays, after-school, and as summer sessions. SEMAA engages Kstudents in a variety of themed programs, including Moon Explorers, Junior Space Engineers, Mars Explorers, Space Medicine/Optics, Astrobiology, and the GeoRobotic Analysis and Sampling Project (GRASP). At this location, 90% of the students served are African American and more than 40% are female. The main SEMAA curriculum is designed by the NASA Glenn Research Center and focuses on aerospace, engineering, and space travel. Funding has been secured to add pilot programs such as GRASP and the Astrobiology in Secondary Classrooms (ASC) Project.

SEMAA offers astronomy outreach programs for middle school students in the Nashville area. The STARLAB programs are tailored to enhance the importance of mathematics as the underpinnings of science, engineering, astronomy, and aerospace concepts. During the summer, SEMAA offers elementary and middle level “Space Camps.” Using the Solar System & Galaxy Cylinder, comparisons of relative distances and sizes of the planets and moons encourages students of all ages to develop thinking skills while reinforcing their mathematics skills. By introducing the concept of a light-year as a unit of distance, not a unit of time, discussions on basic units of measurement and misconceptions in astronomy can be explored. As a follow-up activity, ‘building’ a scale model of the solar system (distances included) helps to give students an idea of how large the solar system, galaxy, and universe actually appear to be. Additional comparisons include how many stars scientists estimate are in the sky versus the number of stars that can be seen with the naked eye to build estimation skills.

For more advanced geometry students, programs zero in on the concept of stars’ declination and right ascension and visualizing the sky as a sphere. By creating imaginary connections between two separate stars and the Earth, the resulting triangles of differing sizes helps students with 3D visualization skills which are vital to geometry comprehension. These real-world applications of geometry generate student enthusiasm for math and provide challenges for the more advanced students.

Astronomy programs presented to physical science students include questions about spectrometry and varying wavelengths of light. Student interest is piqued by creating visual displays of color and linking colors to more indepth concepts of wavelength and frequency. Since astronomers use these spectral (‘color’) signatures to help determine the size, distance, and identification of specific planetary molecules, showing the graphs of the spectra signature of a comet gives students a real-world, research-based experience. These activities help students understand how the light from a distant object can be used to calculate the chemical composition of a celestial body.

The Project STAR Spectrum Projector can be used in STARLAB to demonstrate these and many more physical science core concepts while reinforcing graphing and data analysis skills.

As a part of the Astrobiology (9th-12th grade) and Earth Explorers (6th grade) sessions, students experience the inverse-square law for calculating changes in the amount of sunlight reaching each of the planets as you move further from our Sun and how this affects that planet’s temperature and potential to contain life as we know it.� Additionally, each student calculates her weight on each of the eight planets (sorry Pluto!) when provided with that planet’s gravity.

Bob Hayward, Astronomer/Educator — Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute

Originally purchased in late 2000 with the assistance of a grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC), the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute’s (PARI) giant dome (22-ft diameter) STARLAB has become one of the most popular offerings in the schools of Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina.

In the spring of 2001 Bob retired from Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta where he had been an astronomer/planetarian and, later, an administrator, and joined the staff of PARI for the purpose of developing and presenting STARLAB programs. Since then he has presented nearly 1400 programs in nearly 100 schools in 15 counties in the area. Over 35,000 students have benefited from these programs developed in support of the state standards in the two states. In addition, about 5000 others have attended PARI’s STARLAB programs in teacher workshops and other programs for campers, scouts and the public.

While most of the eight grade-specific programs currently being offered address standards in science, Shapes and Patterns in the Sky is designed to address standards in primary grade mathematics. This program resulted from an early teacher evaluation in which the teacher complimented the presentation because discussion of shapes in the sky such as the Great Square of Pegasus, the Summer Triangle, etc., supported her 1st grade curriculum objectives on identification of shapes, i.e., squares, circles, trapezoids, etc. As a result of this teacher input, Bob developed one his most popular programs entitled Shapes and Patterns in the Sky in support of appropriate primary mathematics objectives.� Two other programs support standards in social studies. Stars of Lewis and Clark supports social studies standards in celebration of the bicentennial of the expedition of the Corps of Discovery.� This program, of course, makes use of the STARLAB Lewis and Clark Cylinder as well as other curricular materials from Learning Technologies, Inc., and elsewhere. Stars of My People is a new program, also funded by the CFWNC, to address the diversified cultural roots among students in the area. In particular, the Qualla Boundary, home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, is nearby and local schools include a significant population of Hispanic students. There are smaller numbers of African-American and Asian students in the schools as well. This program makes use of four STARLAB cylinders (Native American Mythology, African Mythology, Maya Skies and Ancient Chinese Seasons) to describe for students the rich cultural heritages they and their classmates have in their families’ traditional views of the skies.

About the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute

PARI is a not-for-profit public foundation established in 1998. Located in the Pisgah Forest southwest of Asheville, NC, PARI offers educational programs at all levels, from K-12 through post-graduate research, and is affiliated with the 16-campus University of North Carolina system through PARSEC, a UNC Center hosted at PARI. For more information about PARI and its programs, visit www.pari.edu.

Mathematics is a highly interconnected and cumulative subject. The mathematics curriculum therefore needs to introduce ideas in such a way that they build on one another. Instead of seeing mathematics as a set of disconnected topics, students should perceive the relationships among important mathematical ideas. As students build connections and skills, their understanding deepens and expands. STARLAB is an incredibly useful tool to help accomplish this.

Many state-level education initiatives have now developed and implemented grade level expectations for all cores subjects as well as end-of-year grade level assessments. The STARLAB educator would do well to examine these expectations and revisit his/her use of STARLAB to insure that no child is left behind.

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STARLAB User News & Contributions “Astronomy Ignoramus” Shares Her Love for Astronomy Astronomy ignoramus? Hardly! The purchase of the Brownsville Texas school district’s first STARLAB in 1989 inspired Carol Lutsinger to learn all that she could about astronomy and to find ways to share her excitement with others. This one-time, self-described “astronomy ignoramus,” expanded her knowledge of astronomy by attending the American Astronomical Society Teacher Resource Agent program in Chicago, Illinois in 1994. Her outstanding participation and enthusiasm earned her an invitation to serve as one of the master teachers for the following two summer sessions, which she did... with a STARLAB! As her astronomical expertise developed, Carol passed it on through Kids College Saturday classes and evening astronomy programs for kids and parents at the local library.

Carol, now a science resource and classroom teacher in Brownsville, Texas, continues to share her excitement in a multitude of ways. One evening each month, as she has done for the past ten years, she presents two STARLAB programs at the Brownsville Public Library.

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