Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"The Present and Future of Science Journalism” a talk by Charles Petit

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the plenary session given by Charles Petit, titled “The Present and Future of Science Journalism.”  Charles Petit has been in the scientific writing field for over 40 years.  Former president of the National Association of Science Writers, lead writer for the MIT Knight Science Journalism Tracker and VP for the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, Petit has the accolades and experience to support ANY view on the state of Science Journalism (however depressing that POV may be).  He also has a degree in Astronomy, so we can guess his favorite scientific topic :)

Wobbling between the possible career paths of astronomy, education and science writing, I was interested in what he had to say about the demise of science journalism and the possible future of the field.  He gave an engaging lecture on the common themes of the downturn of newspapers and print media, the difference between press releases and articles, and how scientific discoveries are communicated in the modern era.

Given my personal affinity for the science education, I was drawn to the emphasis that Petit placed upon the difference on science educators and writers.   He offered an anecdote about his experiences, recalling how he was once asked to be on a committee to discuss and offer advice on science education.  As the story goes, he replied something along the lines of “why are you asking me? I’m not an educator.”  He (wisely?) noted that one should “never tell a reporter he’s an educator.”  While reporters and educators both highlight important aspects of science, he reminded us that reporters have no formal education, curriculum development or any experience that makes them qualified as educators.

Yet, what if they did?  What if the next generation of science writers and journalists had educational training that led to not only informative articles, but articles that took into consideration how the average reader could learn about the topics at hand. What if each article was not just a report, but a lesson? What if each article included an inquiry based activity on the page? The possibilities are endless. Maybe the future of journalism wouldn’t be so sad after all.

Greetings from Tucson!

I've had the pleasure of attending the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's National Meeting, "Communicating Science" held in Tucson, AZ throughout August 4-8, 2012.  Over two hundred scientists, educators, writers and others involved in astronomy education and public outreach have gathered together to discuss methods of effectively communicating science, common pitfalls, and the hurdles we face in the futures. 

This past weekend, the ASP held a Galileo Teacher Training Program Workshop, where 40+ teaching professionals and educators gathered together to learn and discuss inquiry-based, hands-on astronomy activities.   It was an awesome group that I was proud to be a part of.

Sunday evening kicked off an event at Flandrau planetarium, before the extremely exciting Curiosity landing on Mars.  It was a wonderful experience to gather around with all of these astronomy lovers to watch the successful landing of Curiosity on Sunday night.  I'm including my favorite photo from Curiosity is below:

(From the JPL site on the Curiosity mission: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/)

I love that you can see the rover's shadow in the photo, as well as the beautifully detailed surface of Mars.  And look at that peak in the distance!  How exciting!  Better yet, these photos are the lowest resolution images that we'll be seeing from Curiosity (this camera is purely intended for looking out for rocks and debris in the path of the rover). Just this morning, the first color images from Curiosity have been taken.   

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are chock-full of exciting lectures, panels and interesting conversation.  Keep checking back for updates on some of the sessions!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bay Area Project ASTRO Training Workshop

Last weekend, I spent my days at the Bay Area Project ASTRO Training Workshop.  For two full days, 20+ astronomer/teacher pairs came together to learn about some effective techniques and activities that can be used in order to better communicate astronomy to students.  It seemed like most of the participants were working with middle school classrooms, but the program spans grades 3-12.

I've included the blurb from the ASP's website about Project ASTRO:

Project ASTRO™ is a national program that improves the teaching of astronomy and physical science by linking professional and amateur astronomers with local educators. Each astronomer is matched with an educator in a one-on-one partnership and commits to visiting the educator's students at least four times during the school year. Over 500 active educator-astronomer partnerships currently bring the excitement of scientific discovery through astronomy to over 20,000 students annually.

The main focus of Project ASTRO educator-astronomer partnerships is hands-on, inquiry-based activities that put students in the position of acting like scientists - as they come to understand more about the universe (and science in general).

I had known about Project ASTRO from before my internship at the ASP, so it was wonderful to be able to be involved in the training process.  While I had more of a hands-off role on Friday, I helped lead a couple of activities on Saturday.  I talked a little quickly, but luckily I can practice again at our weekend workshop for the Galileo Teachers Training Program!

Will include photos later!

Recent post on the Astronoblog

Check out my post on the Haverford College Astronomy deparment blog, the Astronoblog: