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Project ASTRO Wants You

Paul Kohlmiller


There is a new and energetic leader of ASP’s Project ASTRO. Her name is Vivian White. She is putting out the call for amateur astronomers who want to help.

Project ASTRO is the way amateur astronomers can volunteer a small amount of time to help with a classroom. Your only commitment is 4 classroom visits within a school year, try to set up a school star party (an easy thing for SJAA members with Jim Van Nuland’s help) and go to an orientation.

It’s really quite simple. After you sign up you will be given a short telephone interview. Then there is a 2 day orientation that is generally held in August. At that time you will meet your teacher-partner and you will learn some ideas that you can use in the classroom.

You will probably be anxious to actually start talking astronomy. In the first class of the year, I have three goals that I will reinforce throughout the year. First, I want every student to know that seasons are caused by the Earth’s tilt - not by changes in the distance between the Earth and the Sun. One activity I do is I get some weather data for various northern and southern hemisphere cities and have the students plot the changes in the average high temperatures throughout the year. The curves for Australia and South America will be different than those for San Jose, New York City and Paris.

The second point I try to make is that the lunar phases are caused by the geometry (I don’t use that word) between the Sun, Earth and Moon. Lunar eclipses, not lunar phases, are caused by the Earth’s shadow.

The third point is simply the names of the planets. Yes, I still include Pluto.

At the orientation you are given literally hundreds of pages of ideas for activities. You simply need to pick the ones you and your teacher-partner want to do.

I recommend Project ASTRO for anyone who likes to talk to people about astronomy. Applications and more information can be found at:


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