TWITTER FEED

May 16, 2013

Capturing the Cosmos in Huntsville

Special thanks to our guest blogger, Chris Myers, U.S. Space and Rocket Center®, Huntsville, AL for this post

Bringing the Cosmos to Space Camp®!

YCCC AyshamAt the U.S. Space and Rocket Center® and Space Camp, we are constantly looking for fun and innovative ways to teach our museum guests and trainees about space history and the science and math concepts that surround it. Naturally, we were excited to participate in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics series of instructional webinars in order to get some fresh ideas and content.  The creativity started to flow as we reviewed the background material, but the amount and quality of the lesson plans and information presented to us by Mary Dussault and Erin Braswell was impressive. By the end of the first hour of the webinar, we had solid ideas and lesson plans that could be implemented in every program from summer Day Camp for 5-year-olds to Advanced Space Academy® for high-school seniors. And they meet both state and national curriculum guidelines!  In this case, our target subject was astronomy.

For our younger trainees, we adapted the activities that dealt with colors and filters into a hands-on component for our astronomy briefing “Tenacious Telescopes.” We use PVC pipe, colored felt and theater lighting gel in the primary colors to teach the trainees about how real telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope use filters to look for specific information, and how scientists can put these single-color images together to make a full-color picture. In addition to making it look more like a real telescope, mounting the color filter inside a PVC pipe telescope has the added bonus of keeping our filters fingerprint and wrinkle free.

YCCC3For our Advanced Academy (junior high to high school) trainees, we added an image processing component into our existing astronomy curriculum which is made up of four components. At the beginning of the week, the trainees participate in a lecture called “Exploring the Night Sky” where they learn the basics of astronomy and focus on finding and naming the constellations and deep space objects. Our second astronomy block is the “Micro Observatory Lab,” where our trainees use the Mobs software to compile full-color images of deep space objects. Our third astronomy block is a “Night Telescope” activity, where the trainees use real telescopes to find the same objects in the sky of which they compiled images the day before. And for our final astronomy block, our Advanced Academy trainees learn the stories behind selected constellations in our inflatable Star Lab.

YCCC AkilHWe have been running the “Micro Observatory Lab” astronomy block since December, 2011, and have had more than 1,500 trainees from all over the world participate. We have so many students participating that we aren’t able to display all their artwork at once, so we have set up two small rotating exhibits of 12 featured photos each here at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, one located in the Main Museum and the other located in the Science Lab used for our summer Space Academy for Educators® camp, and we plan to add a third, larger display to our computer lab this summer.

These kinds of seminars and programs are what make it so awesome to be a part of the network of Smithsonian Affiliates. Imagine all the fun, innovative and educational activities you can dream up with the help of these services! So get out there and sign up for a class today! And spare a glance for the colorful cosmos while you’re at it!

April 26, 2011

affiliates collaborate to Spark! imaginations

Despite being the world’s largest museum complex, one of the challenges at the Smithsonian Institution remains taking the unique offerings away from the invisible walls of the National Mall and “encourage inventive creativity in young people” who may never visit Washington D.C.

The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation has met this opportunity head on by launching the Spark!Lab Outreach Kit Project, through a distribution of six organizations including five Affiliate museums. This collaboration is seen as an effort to extend the reach of Spark!Lab—the center’s hands-on invention activity center—beyond the boundaries of the National Museum of American History. The kits will be designed to replicate some of the most popular Spark!Lab activities and provide opportunities for partner museums to connect their collections and exhibitions to themes of invention and innovation.

The Spark!Lab kits will test and engage students in a variety of interactive stations including “Shaping Space,” a structure building activity; “Now What?,” a problem-solving game; “Snap Circuits,” which gives visitors the chance to use real circuit components to create and test their own electric inventions; and “Soundscapes,” which encourages children to use items, including musical ramps, xylophone staircases and bridges with bells, to create music and sound pathways for marbles. The “Spark!Lab Jr.” program helps learners under the age of 5 develop inventive thinking and problem-solving skills. 

“At the Lemelson Center we believe that a playful approach to problem solving can spark new ideas and lead to great inventions,” said Arthur Molella, director of the center. “This outreach project allows us to reach children outside of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and inspire a new generation of inventive Americans.”

During this pilot program, Spark!Lab kits will be featured at the following Smithsonian Affiliate museums-the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Annmarie Garden in Solomons, Maryland, the Western Science Center in Hemet, California, the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the Science Museum Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

“Science Museum Oklahoma is excited to partner with the Smithsonian and offer a new challenge to our younger guests!” said Suzette Ellison, vice president of Programs and Interpretation at the museum.

An educator at Annmarie Garden inventing with a Spark!Lab kit

“We are very excited to introduce the Spark Lab kits in our classrooms,” said Jaimie Jeffrey, Education Director at Annmarie Garden. “As an arts center, teaching children to apply creative problem-solving skills and innovative thinking to everything they do is paramount for us. These kits are great reinforcements for these strategies in all of our kids’ and family programs.”

The Lemelson Center expects to develop an online Spark!Lab “tool kit” based on evaluations and ‘lessons learned’ from the in-museum activity kits. The on-line content will outline Spark!Lab’s educational philosophy, mission, and vision, and will include simple at-home activities and a list of additional resources for parents and kids.

The Spark!Lab Affiliate program is supported by a gift from the LEGO Children’s Fund.  And be sure to meet the Spark!Lab staff at the annual Smithsonian Affiliations National Conference in June.

 

Privacy

site designed by - ivey doyal