2004-11-10 Educational Environment Report

Structuring an Educational Environment at the RASC Prince George Centre by Robin Riordan

All the preliminary work for establishing a viable education centre at the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Prince George Centre, has been accomplished. That is to say, the physical plant is established in the form of an observatory, and a classroom. Now we can embark on the tasks needed to fulfill our mission statement, “We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of astronomy and science in Prince George and the neighboring northern Canadian communities.”

Public Presentations March-June 16 Presentations
August-November 16 Presentations

This represents 32 presentations. I would suggest that we have 8 programs developed for the coming 2005 – 2006 year. We could offer one program for the four weeks in a month. Then move to the next program. Or, alternatively, offer one program on one day only per month. All other Fridays could be reserved for public schools, community groups, and UNBC. The one thing that is critical is that the public be made aware of a program being offered in addition to just seeing the telescope. There are always casual visitors and they are always welcome to view. We may want to adopt a two programs per week approach, one program targeting adults and another focusing on children.
It appears that we will be seeing about six professional development days per year: October, November, January, February, March, and May. Materials and activities must be developed and maintained for these. Wayne and I plan to offer two sessions this month rather than the one offered in October. During the October PD Day, we had a full house.

The Brownies came in search of their Black Star merit badges this month. As it turns out the Girl Guides council uses the criteria outlined by the Canadian Astronomical Society. I have copied these criteria and recommend that we develop programs specifically designed to target these criteria.

The visits by the Vanderhoof school system are a real plus. I only hope that in the future we can get some communication with the teacher about how they feel we can best help them achieve their curriculum goals. And I would hope that this program could expand to communities other that Vanderhoof. This should not represent any additional development since we have a provincial wide curriculum. We might consider sending a questionnaire to area teachers asking how we can help them implement their new curriculum. Another possibility would be to visit area schools during a faculty and make a brief presentation about what we are and what we might be able to do for them. Questionnaires could be passed out at this time and collected later.

The final draft of the British Columbia Curriculum will be ready by the end of the month. This document will allow us to develop programs that target concepts that are being covered by a particular age group.

I have ordered educational catalogs from Canada and the U.S. They will be arriving at the observatory shortly. I have also subscribed to several newsletters the will come to Tedford. Please feel free to open these and read. They are addressed to me simply because the forms require a name. We can all have fun with the catalogs of educational equipment. We need to purchase educational materials. And I don’t mean new $200 eyepieces 🙂 (although I would really like a filar micrometer nah).

At some point we are probably going to want to go to the funding well. In preparation for this we need to keep good record on attendance, and who is served. We should also develop an aboriginal component to our programming. In fact, I am working on that already. We can start by looking into an application for funds from the Canadian Space Agency. Their grants range from $100 to $5,000. I can think of two immediate funding needs: money for duplication of materials to be distributed to area science teachers, and money for transportation for school children to the observatory. These are not glamorous grants but they are essential.

I would recommend that we begin to consider partnership schemes. A simple exemplar might be:

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Finally, we need to begin to think of how to evaluate our effectiveness. Whether a granting agency is involved or not we need an evaluation mechanism in place to help us see what we are doing right and what could use some improvement.

Along these lines I recommend that we develop a questionnaire that we could send to the scout leader, and teachers who bring groups to the observatory. The questionnaire should contain specific items as well as some open-ended questions.

This is just food for thought. The real formulation and decision making is going to have to be done by committee. Empowerment is the key. Often, those who do not participate do not choose to remain outside; they simply feel ‘uninvited’. We really need teachers, like Wayne. I will be contacting teachers and principals in the local schools and see what I can stir up. And I am sure that among our membership there are some who would love to do some teaching. We also really need to identify someone who is interested in space science. It really appears that Canada is going in this direction and we are a perfect venue for providing students with exposure to space and science. I must admit that I will have to begin training myself in the area of space exploration. I would urge all of us to spend some time in that area.