Astronomy Education Workshop #10

Saturday, November 3, 2007, 9:00am - 3:00 pm

Avery 19, UNL City Campus

with author Phil Plait

These workshops are targeted for college instructors of 100-level astronomy classes and high school instructors who presently teach astronomy or may be interested in developing an astronomy course. They have three goals: 1) to acquaint educators with the new innovative usages of instructional technology in astronomy education, 2) to introduce new developments in the UNL Department of Physics and Astronomy, and 3) to bring together members of the astronomy and physics teaching community to share ideas and identify potential collaborators.

Attendees should park in the Stadium Drive Parking Garage (free on week-ends) which is immediately southwest of the stadium. You are then about 2 blocks from Avery Hall which is immediately southeast of the stadium. Both Avery Hall and the Stadium Drive Parking Garage can be found on the following set of campus maps which allow one to magnify a region by clicking on it.

Workshop Agenda

8:45 Registration, Donuts, Coffee, and Socializing
9:00 Welcome
9:10 Working with Curricular Materials: "Gamma-Ray Burst Activities " - Phil Plait

Abstract: The NASA Education and Public Outreach Group at Sonoma State University has developed an
exciting series of four hands-on, inquiry-based activities to use in your physical science or mathematics
classroom. These standards-based activities are based on gamma-ray bursts, mysterious astronomical
explosions of unimaginable energy which have perplexed astronomers for 40 years. In these activities,
students will use various properties of cosmic bursts to sort them into different categories; use basic geometry
to determine the direction to a burst; use the burst locations in the sky to deduce their distance;
and learn about how these objects focus their energy into tight beams. These activities are crossdisciplinary,
fulfill requirements of many science and math standards, and they're fun for your students.

10:00 Science Talk: "A Swift View of Gamma-Ray Bursts ”- Phil Plait

Abstract: Gamma-ray bursts are titanic and very distant explosions that mark the births of black holes.
Long a mystery to scientists, GRBs are now starting to be understood, but plenty of puzzles remain. Do
they all signal the creation of a black hole? How can they create so much energy -- equivalent to a billion
billion Suns? What would happen if one went off nearby?

NASA's Swift mission was launched into orbit on November 20, 2004, and since then has observed
hundreds of GRBs. It has opened a new window on our understanding of these weird and exciting
explosions. Dr. Plait, an astronomer who worked on Swift's Education and Public Outreach will give an
overview of the mission and discuss what we know about GRBs.

11:30 “A Progress Report on SEPPO” -- Kevin Lee, Ann Langemeier & Megan Holland
12:00 Lunch - Selleck Private Dining Hall (Vegetarian and Vegan Entries provided at every meal)
1:00 “An Introduction to Variable Stars” — Ed Schmidt
1:20 Computer Lab: NAAP Materials - Ed Schmidt (UNL), Adam Davis (UNL), Chris Siedell (UNL), & Dave Kriegler (UNO)

The Nebraska Astronomy Applet Project consists of high quality astrophysics simulations surrounded by a variety of supporting teaching materials. This computer lab will focus on a new ClassAction module on the photometric analysis of variable star data.

2:30 Classroom Demonstration: ClassAction Materials - Todd Young (WSC)

The ClassAction Project is creating a computer database of conceptual questions for use in collaborative student discussion and interactive voting in the introductory astronomy classroom. This demonstation will utilize a new ClassAction module on variable stars.

2:55 Wrap-up and door prize raffle (must be present to win!)

We will have some concluding comments and then raffle off a lot of really good astronomy related stuff. Most of it really is pretty good. Or at least some of it is good. OK, OK none of it is really all that good! But you're missing the point --- here is a chance to win some free stuff!

This event is open to local high school and college astronomy and physics instructors and undergraduates interested in pursuing careers in science education who register in advance. (If high school instructors wish to bring a student who is interested in pursuing a career in science education that is acceptable, but we ask that you carefully scrutinize whether they would benefit from the workshop.) You may register with Sharon Penry by e-mail at or by phone at 402-472-9312. There is no cost for the workshop, lunch and continental breakest are provided, and reimbursement will be made for travel costs up to $50.

This workshop is sponsored by the UNL Center for Science, Mathematics, and Computer Education and the UNL Department of Physics and Astronomy.

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