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Teaching Astronomy with Project Astro

Bob Havner

SJAA Veep Bob Havner demonstrates moon phases with his Project Astro class.


This past year I became involved with Project Astro. Project Astro is a program operated by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific that pairs 4th through 9th grade teachers with local amateur and professional astronomers. I first heard about Project Astro at the Silicon Valley Lectures at Foothill College. I was interested but also unsure whether I had the skills to teach astronomy, or anything else for that matter, to schoolchildren.

I thought about it off and on for some time but there was always that fear of failure. Then I became involved with Jim Van Nuland and the school star parties. I found that I was quite at ease with the kids and they were very interested in what I had to tell them. I also talked to Jane Houston Jones, who I knew was a Project Astro astronomer; she gave me the courage to take the next step.

I attended the Project Astro workshop in the summer of 2001. There I met my Project Astro partner Juanita Ryan. Juanita is a fifth grade teacher at Toyon Elementary School in San Jose and a veteran to Project Astro. The ASP put on a great workshop. It was two days of hands on projects and instruction on how to have a successful partnership. Everyone was given a copy of The Universe at your Fingertips, a complete resource with projects for every area of astronomy at the 4th through 9th level.

Although a minimum of four visits to the school per year are required of the Project Astro astronomer I thought we should try for once a month. We didn't make that goal but we did have about 7 or 8 meetings including a school star party for the entire school and an attempt at Science Camp that was unfortunately clouded out. As a finale to the year, most of the class showed up at Houge Park for the solar eclipse in June. The class presented me with a scrapbook that has photos, drawings, and letters from the class.

My involvement with my Project Astro class has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I would encourage anyone to take that first step. I plan to continue my partnership with Juanita and I look forward to starting class next year.

Bob Havner


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