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Astronomy Majors lead Workshop for Middle School Teachers

Making science exciting and important to middle school students can be an endeavor but Lincoln educators are aiming for the stars. On October 5th, a group of 8th grade science teachers from five local middle schools participated in a curriculum enhancement workshop.

Dr. Kevin Lee presented with the help of five undergraduate students -- Marina Bradaric, Samantha Cajka, Lauren Wolterman, Ethan Van Winkle, and Tina Riley. Jeff Wilkerson, Professor of Physics at Luther College, also presented.

The students showed the teachers where to find free sky maps, virtual planetarium software, calculators that note things like the best time to see Jupiter's famous red spot, and places where science is crowd sourced like the Galaxy Zoo on Zooniverse. The group also made altitude markers, tested a simple, homemade spectrometer, and learned that even paper towel tubes can give kids a better focus on astronomy.

Dr. Lee demonstrated several online resources to benefit both students and teachers seeking to grasp a better understanding of physics and astronomy, including UNL's Daylight Hours Explorer, which has received over a million hits in the past two years.

One participant noted that, "[the workshop] sparked my sense of wonder -- I want to learn more!" Another appreciated having their questions about astronomy answered and nearly everyone found a resource they were looking forward to using.

This workshop is the second of its kind, coming on the heels of a successful 15-year-long program for high school science educators. Two of last year's participants returned this year and several of the teachers said they expect the workshop will help them bring astronomy to their students on a level they can understand and get excited about.

Friday, February 15, 2013  —  Kevin