Interning at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific – Miriam Fuchs ’13mfuchs | July 30, 2012
Greetings from San Francisco! My name is Miriam Fuchs, and I am a senior Astrophysics major at Haverford College. This summer I’m interning at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), a non-profit dedicated to increasing science literacy through astronomy education. After spending the previous two summers conducting astronomy research, I wanted to try out astronomy education and see how I liked it.
So far, I’ve been having a blast! I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hand in a few different areas of astronomy education and outreach. My main focus for the summer has been multicultural astronomy education. Astronomy has been an important focus for cultures throughout the centuries; how can we incorporate cultural models of the universe and observational methods into current astronomy education? I’ve been attempting to answer this question in a few different ways. One way is through updating a multicultural astronomy resource guide compiled by Andrew Fraknoi in 2008. For a variety of cultures, there are different activities, articles, links and general information for educators to turn to. More recently, I’ve been helping developing a multicultural astronomy activity to be used in two upcoming teacher workshops. The activity is based on calendars throughout the ages and how did different cultures marked the passage of time through astronomical observations.
I’ve also been able to get some more hands-on outreach experience at a myriad of local astronomy programs and events. In early June, I worked at Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA for the Transit of Venus. Over the course of the afternoon, around 3,000 people showed up! I showed visitors how to use the solar telescopes and answered questions about planets, transits and general astronomy conundrums. Here’s a photo of a family using one of our solarscopes:
Later in the month, I worked at a SETI convention where I got to have an incredible conversation with Dr. Frank Drake (of the famous Drake equation), and discuss my interest in astronomy. Definitely a highlight for the summer. Last week, I helped run a supernovae session at a local NASA Space Art Summer Program for high school students. Here’s a photo of the students participating in an activity called “The Kinesthetic Lifecycle of Stars” (they had just gotten to the supernova phase!):
I just got back from a weekend training workshop of the Bay Area Project ASTRO. Project ASTRO is a national program to improve science education through linking professional and amateur astronomers with local classrooms. At the workshop, we trained over 20 local astronomer/teacher pairs about different ways to teach astronomy in the classroom. We went over different methods of teaching science, innovative astronomy activities, and how astronomy/teacher partnerships can benefit students of all ages. It was an incredible experience that I am proud to be a part of. Here’s a photo of two astronomers and a teachers working on a scale model of the solar system:
I was fortunate enough to receive conference funding from Haverford to attend the ASP’s annual conference entitled “Communicating Science” in Tucson, AZ in early August. I’ll be presenting a poster there and helping facilitate a teacher training workshop.
All in all, everyone at the ASP has been incredibly inviting and helpful, whether it is inviting me to work on one of their projects, sharing their stories about how they got involved in astronomy education, or introducing me to useful contacts. I went into this summer considering a possible career in astronomy education and outreach, and my experience so far has pretty much solidified this notion. I’m excited to go back to Haverford in the Fall and share my outreach experience with my peers!
(If you want to see more photos or learn more about my summer work, you can check out my blog: aspintern.blogspot.com/)