The prospect of discovering a whole new planet in Planet Hunters is super amazing and awesome. I sometimes refer to it as the “sexiest” outcome of any Zooniverse project (sorry lions and plankton). Here at the Zooniverse we’ve found that young people get pretty jazzed about the prospect of discovering a new world too. We want to deepen that excitement by helping students to understand the science behind the project.
Over the past year educators have been developing the Planet Hunters Educators Guide. Specifically targeted at middle school students (11-14 year olds), this nine-lesson unit aims to help students gain an in-depth understanding of the science behind Planet Hunters. Topics addressed include the transit method of detecting exoplanets, habitable zones, working with Kepler data to determine features of the different exoplanets, and much more. Last spring we conducted a first round of teacher review of the initial set of lessons. Since then they’ve been updated and improved based on the incredibly valuable feedback provided by teachers from around the world.
We’re carrying out a second round of teacher evaluation on these the revised lessons. Care to lend us your opinion? We need teachers to tell us what they think about these lessons and how to make them better!
If you’d like to help us create this educational resource please fill in this Google Form.
We’ll email you directly with instructions on accessing the lessons and evaluation forms by Friday February 14th.
US-based teachers who complete either of the following options by 5pm CST on Wednesday March 10th will receive a $25 Amazon gift card via email.
1.) Pilot at least two lessons with students and complete a short feedback form for each lesson.
2.) Read at least four lessons and complete a short feedback form for each lesson.
We welcome the opinions from educators from any country, but are only able to offer the Amazon gift card to US-based teachers due to grant restrictions. If you have any questions please comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
5:45 – Woke up. Decide to swap order of presentation.
7:00 – Breakfast, it is the most important meal of the day after all.
8:00 – Final presentation adjustments done.
8:45 – Public speaking makes me nervous sometimes so put on my favorite dress and purple tights for confidence.
9:30 – First session of the day – Effective Approaches for Addressing Next Generation Science Standards in the Earth and Space Science Classroom. This workshop was facilitated by members of the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) and began with an overview of how earth and space sciences fits in the NGSS. The presenters nicely summed up the NGSS Performance Expectations as – “involving a lot of action verbs.” Instead of statements beginning with “students will understand” or “students will identify” these new performance expectations begin with statements like “students who demonstrate understanding can develop and use a model to describe…” and “students who demonstrate understanding can analyze and interpret data to determine…”.
The remainder of the workshop focused on Windows to the Universe, NESTA’s learner and educator portal. There are a variety of activities available for use in the classroom. There is a yearly subscription fee if you want to download and print PDFs but activities and worksheets can be printed for free from your browser.
11:00 – Second Session of the day – Making the Connection Between Formal and Informal Education. Staff from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Zoo, and Denver Public Schools overviewed two long-term collaborations running in the Denver metro area. Passport to Health is a bilingual school-year program targeting at 5th graders and their families. Through classes and events in school and at the museum, over 3,000 participants receive tools and knowledge promoting healthy living. Urban Advantage Denver , the second program highlighted, is an in-depth collaboration between local school districts and the City of Denver’s scientific cultural institutions. This program aims to empower every 7th grade student to think and explore like a scientist.
12:30 – Time to present. A small but enthusiastic group of 15 came to learn about a variety of Zooniverse projects and the educational resources available to bring them into the classroom. Sadly the internet decided to be uncooperative, but luckily I had a back-up plan and plenty of screen shots. There were lots of great questions and contact details exchanged. I can’t say much more because I tend to suffer from “post-presenting amnesia”, but it was a great session.
2:00 – Stroll around the second half of the exhibition hall successfully found candy to temporarily relieve my hunger rage. It was great to see the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and Cornell Lab of Ornithology promoting their excellent programs. Totally have science education crushes on those two.
3:00 – Starving. Back at the hotel waiting for delivery while catching up on email.
It was a great meeting, but it will be nice to be back home in Chicago. ‘Til next time NSTA!
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!