Journey Through the Universe NGSS Teacher Workshop

Journey Through the Universe NGSS Teacher Workshop

“How do we encourage students to ask questions about our natural environment?” 

We sought to answer this question and more during the Journey Through the Universe Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) workshop held at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center on September 5 & 6, 2019.

Gemini Observatory, in partnership with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE), Maunakea Observatories and Hawaiʻi Island business community have a long history of hosting the Journey Through the Universe (Journey) program over the past 16 years.

During this year’s two-day workshop, over 60 K-12 teachers engaged in NGSS-aligned and astronomy-centered activities. Teachers were provided with the resources needed to take these activities back to their classrooms to use with their students.

Esther Kanehailua, Complex Area Superintendent of  Hilo-Waiakea, Darrell Nekoba, School Renewal Specialist, and Janice Harvey, Journey Program Leader opened the workshop with a brief history of the Journey program, highlighting the collaboration between Journey and the HIDOE. Doug Simons, Director of the Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope closed out the opening remarks by talking about astronomy and education in our Hawaiʻi Island community.

Lauren Kaupp, HIDOE Science Specialist started both days by focusing on the overarching themes of NGSS and how to truly integrate them into classrooms with diverse cultural and socio-economic perspectives.

After lunch on both days, teachers engaged in NGSS-based activities presented by Dr. Connie Walker and Rob Sparks from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson and Alyssa Grace from Gemini Observatory.

Rob Sparks leads teachers through an investigation on fortune telling fish. Photo credit: Joy Pollard.

 Dr. Connie Walker begins instruction on creating a constellation box. Photo credit: Joy Pollard.

Dr. Walkerʻs sessions for grade level 6 – 12 teachers covered the topic of light pollution using hands-on Quality Light Teaching Kits (QLTK), custom made by NOAO. Dr. Walker and the Journey team adapted two different activities in the QLTK to focus on Hawaiʻi-based natural phenomena. One activity featured honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) in a board game that teaches how light pollution affects the migration patterns of honu and the survival of their young. The second activity adapted for Hawai‘i featured a photo taken from space of Honolulu at night which dramatically shed light (pun intended) on how significantly our dark skies are affected by light pollution. The image was part of a end-of-unit project leading teachers and students through a real-life investigation of various street lights, their energy consumption, and the effects they have on light pollution in Hawaiʻi. Every school represented in the workshop took home enough kits for one classroom. 

Alyssa Grace helps teachers stabilize their slinkies in preparation for a slow motion video. Photo credit: Joy Pollard.

K – 2 teachers explore the Moonbear’s Shadow kit as a lesson on shadows for students. Photo credit: Joy Pollard.

Rob Sparks and Alyssa Grace shared a wide variety of activities meant to inspire K – 5 teachers and flip the structure of teaching science on its head. NGSS focuses on inquiry-based, student-led discussions and investigations designed to engineer solutions, as opposed to step-by-step processes that solely teach content knowledge. Teachers became students again as they went through their own investigations and experienced the wonder of being a scientist. In addition to hands-on student-led investigations centered around the electromagnetic spectrum and the refraction of light, Sparks and Grace also taught lessons using the Gemini portable planetarium. They ended the workshop with cultural astronomy stories from around the world.

At the end of the workshop, teachers participated in a survey and anonymously shared comments which included:

“The most valuable part about this workshop was the way presenters delivered instruction with a question versus going straight into the content.”

“I will implement the idea of environmental issues and how it can affect living things (light pollution and its effects on health) into my classroom.”

“I will try out all of the lessons presented in this workshop. Especially enjoyed and will use the wheel lenses, moon phases, and shadow activity.”

Read more about this workshop in this feature article in the Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald.

To learn more about the Journey Through the Universe program visit our website.

Get to Know Gemini! Hwihyun Kim

Get to Know Gemini is a new series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name:  Hwihyun Kim

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Assistant Scientist at Gemini South

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

I help the Gemini users with setting up their programs and checking the progress of the program and the data. I also prepare nightly plans for the different observing conditions.
My instrument support duty is for GMOS-S by monitoring zeropoint magnitudes, acting as a Tier 3 HelpDesk support, and doing the back-on-sky checks when it’s installed.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

It’s been 2 years and 7 months.

What drew you to this job?

I was attracted by the fact that we have two telescopes covering both hemispheres. Both Chile and Hawaii are the best places to be if you are an observational astronomer! I picked Chile cause the astronomy community in Chile has been growing so much recently and I wanted to be part of that.

What is the best part of your job?

Working with people from the different science background. As a contact scientist I enjoy learning new things from what other people are doing with our data.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

Seoul, Korea. I haven’t lived there for last 15 years tho.

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

Communication in both written and oral forms.

Why is astronomy important?

I wouldn’t say it is important to everyone. It is always exciting and fun to do. Astronomy is a record-breaking science and it goes along with advances of the technologies applied to/from astronomy. We know much more about our Solar System, exoplanets, stellar evolution and formation in different galaxies, and early universe than ten years ago. With all the extremely large telescopes being built in near future and the space telescopes like James Webb and WFIRST, the new discoveries won’t stop happening. Nobody is dying of not knowing or not wanting to learn about astronomy, but it would be unfortunate missing out all the pleasures that we get from finding out new things about the universe and nature in general.

In three lines, explain your PhD thesis.

I studied young massive stellar populations in nearby star forming galaxies using the HST/WFC3 early release science data. I developed a method to measure the reddening of individual stars using the combinations of observed colors and to estimate their ages and masses from the extinction corrected colors and magnitude. With those information, I could map the spatial distribution of stars in different age groups and learn how and where the stars and star clusters move from their birthplace to the current locations.

What are your current research interests?

I continue working on star formation and evolution of resolved stellar populations in nearby galaxies with the LEGUS data (legus.stsci.edu), specially how to select and identify star clusters using their morphological characteristics. My LEGUS collaborators and I recently started the spectroscopic follow-up of Luminous Blue Variable candidates identified in our nearest samples (NGC 7793 and NGC 1313) using VLT/MUSE and GMOS-S MOS. They provide an important clue about the evolution of massive stars .

What is your favorite movie?

This is a hard question. Little Miss Sunshine. I like the family dynamics in it.

What is the latest book you have read?

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson and Kalpa Imperial by Angelica Gorodischer

What is one hobby of yours?

Hiking and Jigsaw puzzle

Favorite beverage?

COFFEE!!

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

Get to Know Gemini! Andrea Blank

Get to Know Gemini is a series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name:  Andrea Blank

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Senior Project Coordinator, Gemini South

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

I have several things that I do: I provide Project Coordinator support for large Instrumentation Projects, support staff at Gemini South with project portfolio, project methodology, Project Management Knowledge Base and resource management related questions. I am also a Project Manager for smaller Operations or PMO projects.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

Just over 3 years

What drew you to this job?

The opportunity to use my skill set in a different field of work (my background is in the hospitality and events industry) and working in a different country with an international community.

What is the best part of your job?

The people I work with and the view from the telescope when my work takes me up Cerro Pachón

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I’m German but grew up in Surrey, England

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

Good organization skills and knowing how to deal with and communicate with people

Why is astronomy important?

It is humbling. It makes us aware of our place within the universe and that we should consider ourselves fortunate to call earth our home.

What is your favorite movie?

Billy Elliot

What is the latest book you have read?

Becoming, by Michele Obama

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

‘Travel the World with Putumayo’ by Putumayo, ‘Lifted’ by the Lighthouse Family and one of my compilation CDs from the early 2000s

What is one hobby of yours?

Sewing

Favorite beverage?

Sparkling water with a slice of lemon

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

Get to Know Gemini! Jesse Ball

Get to Know Gemini is a series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name:  Jesse Ball

What is your current position and at which telescope?

I’m the Science Operations Specialist group manager at Gemini North.

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

The SOS team is primarily responsible for day and night operations. Day operations involves both assessing the quality of the previous night’s data collected, and coordinating daytime telescope work, including instrument calibrations and checks, software and hardware testing. Night operations involves observing queue and classical/ visiting science programs and operating and troubleshooting the telescope, laser guide star, and instruments. We also get involved in various projects throughout the observatory based on our interests and skill sets. My job entails all of these core duties along with team management, administration, and leadership.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

I’ve been with Gemini since April of 2007 (about 11 1/2 years).

What drew you to this job?

I loved Astrophysics and Cosmology as and undergrad — the deep insights as to how we actually come to be and what it is that drives physical processes that make up the universe we live in. But I was not into doing research. I also loved being a part of the action and working at the telescope, tinkering with spectrographs and cameras, and the software that controlled them. My advisor, Dr. Kim Venn, pointed me towards operations jobs as a potential career path in astronomy that didn’t necessarily require research, and I’ve been pursuing this type of work ever since.

What is the best part of your job?

I love to work with and interact with people from all sorts of different backgrounds and perspectives, as I feel I gain a lot of insight by looking at the world through different lenses. I equally love to be a part of the front line of science by collecting the data used to help us understand our universe, along with the pressure and excitement of real-time troubleshooting and problem-solving.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I grew up in Duluth, MN, on the shores of Lake Superior, and later attended undergrad school at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN on the Mississippi River. Before coming to Hawai’i to work for Gemini, I spent about three or four years in Albuquerque, NM working for a high energy astrophysics observatory called the STACEE project.

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

I am a firm believer that in any profession, including astronomy, the best skills to have are the ability to listen with an open mind. With this, you can learn and develop good understanding for any technical or non-technical skills that are required for any job in any field.

Why is astronomy important?

It is through astronomy that we gain unbiased insight as to how the physical world around us works. The Universe is a giant natural laboratory of light that we can and should use to answer fundamental questions about pretty much everything.

What is your favorite movie?

This is by far the most difficult question on the interview… if I have to pick one I’d say The Princess Bride. Think about it, it has aspects of every genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama, Adventure, Horror… you name it.

What is the latest book you have read?

Right now I’m (slowly) reading Magicians of the Gods by Graham Hancock, but I will be the first to admit that I don’t get to read nearly as often as I should…

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

This one is incredibly easy:
1) Mothership Connection (Parliament /Funkadelic)
2) Off the Wall (Michael Jackson)
3) The Hits/ The B-Sides (Prince… ok, I know that’s kinda cheating but there are too many good Prince songs to just bring one of his albums)

What is one hobby of yours?

When I’m not working or being a beach bum, I like to brew beer.

Favorite beverage?

See above 😉

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

Get to Know Gemini! Lindsay Magill

Get to Know Gemini is a series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Image credit: Jen Miller

Name:  Lindsay Magill

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Science Operations Specialist, Gemini South

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

I am involved in telescope operations. I have one or two night shifts a month when I act as the telescope operator or the staff observer. The rest of the time when I’m on day shift I spend checking data we’ve taken, making sure the instruments are prepped for the night crew, as well as working on longer term projects like upgrading software, maintaining documentation, and up until recently serving on the Time Allocation Committee.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

Almost 6 years.

What drew you to this job?

While I was doing my PhD, I worked as a Student Support Astronomer for a year at the Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma. As I was doing that I realised that I much preferred being part of telescope operations and observing more than I enjoyed writing papers, so this job seemed like an ideal fit.

What is the best part of your job?

Observing on a clear night, especially when we get to go up to the mountain to observe.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I was born in the US, and lived there during my early childhood before moving back to Northern Ireland when I was 11, which is where my parents are originally from.

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

How to get through an entire night without falling asleep!

Why is astronomy important?

I’m not really interested in astronomy because I think it’s important. I don’t think it is particularly, at least not the way medical research is. But it’s fascinating, and it’s beautiful, and occasionally you find out something that turns out to be important to other people, often by accident. But it isn’t *why* I’m interested in astronomy, I just think it’s really cool.

What is your favorite movie?

The Martian

What is the latest book you have read?

The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman.

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

Flood, by They Might be Giants; 40 Licks, by the Rolling Stones; Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on her Magical Ukulele

What is one hobby of yours?

I’m teaching myself to play electric guitar.

Favorite beverage?

A good strong Assam tea.

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!