Two days ago the Zooniverse Teacher Ambassadors Workshop concluded. It’s been an exhilarating, challenging, exciting and utterly exhausting couple of days, but in that good and really satisfying way. Fifteen classroom teachers and five informal educators from around the United States (and one from Ireland!) gathered at the Adler Planetarium for what I like to call “Zooniverse Bootcamp”.
Planning this two-day event took a lot of time and energy but fortunately Laura and I had plenty of help. This summer we’ve had the great fortune to be working with Julie Feldt. Julie is interning with Zooniverse as she’s finishing up her certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Michigan. Jennifer Gupta, the Outreach Officer for the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at The University of Portsmouth, also joined us for the workshop and the week leading up to it. Four pairs of hands are so much better than two!
Last week began with a scramble to make sure all of our ducks were in a row. Internal and external catering arranged? Check! Workshop spaces booked at the Adler Planetarium? Check! Workshop participant hotel and flight Last week began with a scramble to make sure all of our ducks were in a row. Internal and external catering arranged? Check! Workshop spaces booked at the Adler Planetarium? Check! Workshop participant hotel and flight reservations finalized? Check! Agenda having to be completely redone to fit everything in? Double check! By Thursday morning we were ready to roll.
Day One Highlights
Laura kicked off the workshop by outlining the general landscape of citizen science and Zooniverse’s place within that landscape.
Arfon Smith, Zooniverse Technical Lead and Director of Citizen Science at the Adler Planetarium, then overviewed the rise of a little project called Galaxy Zoo and the development of the Zooniverse as a collect of online citizen science projects from across a wide variety of scientific disciplines.
Next using Snapshot Serengeti as an example, I led workshop participants through the process of creating a Zooniverse project from submitting a proposal to the the Citizen Science Alliance to collaborating with Zooniverse developers and designers to build the website.
Throughout the first day workshop participants heard from science teams from several Zooniverse projects. Scott Stevens from Cyclone Center, William Keel from Galaxy Zoo, Chris Lintott from Planet Hunters, and Jessica Luo from an upcoming project about plankton all discussed the science behind their projects.
In addition to learning about the history of the Zooniverse and hearing the stories behind a selection of projects, we also took the opportunity to introduce some of the new educational resources we’ve been busy developing. Jen Gupta introduced ZooTeach and demoed a lesson from the upcoming Planet Hunters Educators Guide. Laura led an interactive activity using the Galaxy Zoo Navigator. This tool allows students the ability to classify galaxies as a group and then probe the data a bit further with some simple graphing tools.
Day 2 Highlights
After an evening of Mexican food we were ready to move into the final day of the workshop. Day two was a whirlwind of continuing discussion about tools to bring Zooniverse projects into the classroom and more behind the scenes looks at projects. Julie Feldt, Zooniverse education intern, and Karen Masters, Galaxy Zoo project scientist ran a prototype program aimed at giving students a chance to interact with a Zooniverse scientist through structured activities and discussions through Google Hangouts.
Aprajita Verma from the Spacewarps (http://spacewarps.org/) science team gave a terrific talk all about how Zooniverse volunteers are searching for gravitational lenses.
Adler Planetarium educator Andi Nelson led teachers through an amazing session of constructing lesson ideas using Zooniverse projects that map to the recently finalized Next Generation Science Standards.
By the end of day two, workshop participants were brimming with ideas to share! As homework, each person will create an educational lesson or resource aimed at using a Zooniverse project with students. We will post these in ZooTeach. The teachers will also each be writing a blog post, so you can hear directly from them about their experiences with citizen science.
Some Lessons Learned
Of course, we can’t help but share a few valuable lessons that we learned…
- Science teams scattered around the globe make for some agenda setting nightmares. But totally worth it!
- Don’t get cocky and let your guard down after a smooth day one.
- Think of technology like a small child, it acts-up or gets cranky at the most inopportune times
- Coffee available all day, every day is always the way to go!
- 8:30am-5:30pm – too long of a day.
- Teachers are always early, be prepared!
- Two days isn’t enough, a little longer is better.
We’d like to thanks everybody involved in the Zooniverse Teacher Ambassadors Workshop! We were so lucky to spend two days with such talented and passionate educators. The science team members all gave stellar talks and we’re grateful to all who participated. Also a special thanks to all of the staff at the Adler Planetarium that made this workshop possible. We’re hoping to do this again!