Lighting the Fire for 25 years: The Nature and Legacy of Astronomy Camp

Type Conference Paper
Names Donald W. McCarthy, E. Hooper, S. D. Benecchi, T. J. Henry, J. D. Kirkpatrick, C. Kulesa, M. S. Oey, J. Regester, W. M. Schlingman, Astronomy Camp Staff
Conference Name American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts, #221, #246.11
Volume 221
Date January 1, 2013
Short Title Lighting the Fire for 25 years
Library Catalog NASA ADS
Abstract In 1988, Astronomy Camp began in an era when science was entirely the realm of professionals, astronomical observatories were off-limits to the public at night, and scientists were not encouraged to spend time in science education. Since then we have grown a dynamic science education program that immerses individuals (ages 11-80), educators, schools, and Girl Scout Leaders in authentic science at Arizona’s research observatories in the Catalina mountains and at Kitt Peak. Often labeled “life changing,” these residential programs have engaged thousands of people from 49 U.S. states and 20 foreign countries. Female enrollment has increased steadily, and women now generally outnumber men in our teenage programs. Graduate students have played a major creative role and many have gone on to become educators and research leaders around the world. By involving a wide range of ages, the Camps have helped strengthen the STEM-pipeline. Many of our alumni remain in touch via social and professional networks and have developed not only into professional astronomers but also into leaders throughout society, parents, and educators. Our emphasis on age-appropriate research helped inspire today’s concepts of research-based science education and Citizen Science. An accompanying paper (E. Hooper et al.) discusses our approach to project-oriented astronomical research. Scientific discoveries include Near-Earth Objects, supernova classification, and lightcurves of Kuiper Belt Objects. The Camps have also contributed to educational research involving informal science education, youth perceptions, and student identities. Ironically, the Camps have leveraged new initiatives in both research and education at NOAO, LSST, and JWST. Here we review the philosophy, conduct, and content of Astronomy Camp and summarize the unexpected nature of its ongoing legacy. We remain grateful to The University of Arizona Alumni Association for its long-term encouragement and support.
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