STAR PARTIES: Hands-on Optics and Astronomy

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Putting telescopes in the hands of middle school students to help them learn STEM through astronomy is what the Galileoscope STAR PARTIES Project is all about. The current program linking formal and informal science education grew out of two SFAz informal STEM education programs with astronomy partner NOAO (National Optical Astronomy Observatory), providing teacher professional development and hands-on astronomy experiences for teachers and students through programs at Kitt Peak and through Boys and Girls Clubs in Arizona.

The community STAR PARTY that emerged and on which the current project model is based begins with teacher professional development on weekends, moves with 5-7th grade teachers into their classrooms, and culminates in Friday evening community events that engage hundreds of 5th graders and teachers, families and friends. From just before sunset and for 2-3 hours after that, a panoramic hands-on viewing of the observable universe through the Galileoscope engages this diverse local community of astronomers.  The Galileoscope is a 50mm diameter telescope built from a kit and designed after the model Galileo built 400 years ago. It provides quality optical images of lunar and planetary features at magnifications of 25X and 50X.

STAR PARTY project programs have launched in Flagstaff, Yuma, Safford, Globe and Payson, and repeated in these communities. To date, 120 5th grade teachers, 3000 5th graders and 3000 more from these communities have been impacted statewide. Let there be light!

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