Planets and Pedagogy

In our times, more and more issues (climate change, energy crisis, genetic engineering, etc.) call for responsible citizens and leaders to have a basic knowledge of science. And economic development increasingly needs professionals with a high-level knowledge in mathematics and science. However, the current school system has challenges in providing both basic and advanced scientific education: science is often misrepresented as a boring series of facts, and teachers are asked to stretch into areas in which they may not be familiar.

The Astronomy Honors Think Tank will explore how to make people scientifically equipped to contribute effectively to 21st century society on the premise that astronomy can be used as a fascinating gateway to the sciences. Astronomy appeals to people of all ages and seems less scary and less complicated than mathematics or engineering. We will start by experiencing a real scientific environment with a hands-on project using the new research-grade Willard L. Eccles telescope at the University of Utah. At the same time, we will learn about the current situation in scientific education and about the existing approaches to raise the level of scientific knowledge, focusing on astronomy: for example, television programs and demonstrations in schools, the Center for Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Utah, innovative courses like Physics for Future Presidents at the University of California, Berkeley. Finally we will see to formulate a report containing practical suggestions on how to use astronomy as a means of improving general scientific knowledge and as an entryway into other science and engineering studies.

Final Report

This Think Tank has become regular course that runs during fall semesters.