Keys to Success
Sustainability: Each site is managed by a lead institution (e.g., planetarium, university, research center, etc.), and supported by a local consortium of educational and scientific institutions.
Training: Astronomers and educators are trained together at 2-day workshops, with an emphasis on treating both as equal partners.
Multiple Visits: Each volunteer astronomer “adopts” a class or youth group and makes at least four visits during the year.
Inquiry-Based: The focus is on hands-on, age-appropriate activities that put students in the position of acting like scientists by asking questions and finding their own answers.
Research and Networking: Project ASTRO uses and makes available to its partners materials and approaches that earlier educational projects and research have shown to be most effective. Local networks also allow participants to learn from one another.
Community Involvement and Outreach: In addition to classroom lessons, many partners put on “star parties” or arrange visits to local astronomy facilities for their students’ families. Special efforts are also made to reach out to populations traditionally under-served by the scientific community (for example, we have partnerships working on a Native American reservation in New Mexico, with mainly African-American groups in Chicago, and at a school for the blind and deaf in Tucson). The program also benefits by attracting many minority and women astronomers as role models.
Please note that Project ASTRO is not a curriculum in astronomy. There are no prescribed activities or topics to cover (though a number of resources are provided see below). Each partnership draws upon its own strengths and interests to plan what happens during each astronomer visit. The strategy works, and independent evaluation has confirmed that both educators and students involved in the project have more positive attitudes about science and accomplish more science learning in the classroom.