Help children see the wonders of science

A view from the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, the farthest out users can take the project perspective. (Courtesy Google)

WASHINGTON — I spent a wonderful Thursday with 22 science teachers from several Virginia school districts. They are taking a two-week astronomy course hosted by the University of Virginia’s (UVA) Astronomy Department with Dr. Edward Murphy and Dr. Jennifer Maeng as the primary instructors.

The Blue Ridge Earth Science Collaborative, in conjunction with UVA, offered ASTR 6340, or “Astronomy Concepts in the Classroom,” to science teachers who applied and were accepted.

The course objective is to give teachers a broad overview of astronomy and a basic understanding of the universe that we live in, with an emphasis on topics covered in the Virginia Standards of Learning for grades 4 through 9.

The group was energetic, interactive and asked really good questions. I spoke about space rocks and the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater (CBIC), and brought real meteorites for them to see, as well as samples from inside the 53-mile wide crater that impacted what is now Cape Charles, VA 35 million years ago.

Next week, I will give presentations on the future of U.S. Manned spaceflight and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). We’ll also visit UVA’s Fan Mountain Observatory, which I am really looking forward to seeing.

Teachers and parents have such a critical role in children’s exposure to science and nature. In my blog, I’ve discussed what it takes to become a professional astronomer. Being with these teachers and kids last week was such a joy.

People of all ages and backgrounds can understand the universe in which they live. Once they learn they can understand, they’re off and running to a personal voyage of discovery.

Read this article and think about anyone you might be able to help along the way.

Create a ripple in a child’s life by providing learning and discovery opportunities, buying a relevant birthday or Christmas gift and adding words of encouragement.

Doing so can help a child launch a Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics (STEM)-related career.

Once the spark is ignited, the results are a joy to see.

Follow my daily blog and Twitter feed to keep up with the latest news in astronomy and space exploration. You can email me at skyguyinva@gmail.com.

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