Sunday, August 17, 2008

Final Presentations

Every year at the Museum I teach a summer astronomy class for members of the Museum's Quasars to Sea Stars teen program. (Some of you may already know that I started at the Museum 13 years ago as a "Quasar" myself.) At the end of the summer, it's time for final presentations. Most of the presentations are PowerPoints focusing on the research each student has done over the summer in her or his research area. This year's classes included archeology, ornithology and astronomy; in addition, members of our sister program at the SB Zoo gave presentations in their research areas.
My class is always a little different. It's structured differently because it's not a research class. I'm not a research astronomer, I'm an educator. So I teach them astronomy, and then teach them how to teach it. And for their final presentation, I let them decide what they want to present and how they will present it. They always impress me with their creativity and enthusiasm, and when they leave the 4-year program, they consider it one of the most fun and worthwhile things they've done.
This year's class did a great job, with a classroom presentation on particle physics and rocketry (not really directly related, but presented together for this instance), complete with a pretty impressive live webcast of a Diet Coke and Mentos fountainesque archway. There were also appearances by Galileo and Newton, who discussed their work with telescopes. The finale was "Dancing With the Stars," a spoof on the TV show but this time featuring real stars and planets dancing together.
Here is why I love my class: as I wandered around through the day of final presentations, I saw many students nervously flipping through handout versions of their presentations, feverishly reviewing notes and waiting in crowded auditoriums for their talks to begin; when I walked into the big hall where my class was presenting, they were putting up decorations for "Dancing With the Stars" as they played some music and danced around themselves on the stage. They have so much fun with what they do that the audience can't help but have fun as well. Nice work, Astro Teens!
I should also mention that Maria, one of the Quasars, put together a video of all the Quasars saying goodbye to me, and they played it at the end of the presentations. It was really nice, and I noticed I wasn't the only one crying. It's been great to be a part of such a wonderful program for so many years, and I couldn't have asked for a better last day of work.

The members of T.E.E.N. posing at the end of presentations

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