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Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos Program

Teach kids astronomy by controlling real telescopes over the internet, and create images like these!

Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos Program is a special opportunity for 25 Affiliates from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and Smithsonian Affiliations. Qualified Affiliates that successfully complete the online professional development program to facilitate the use of the MicroObservatory online telescope system will be awarded $1500 for implementation of Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos Program. Funding has been provided by the Smithsonian Youth Access Grant Fund.   

  • Are you an Affiliate educator interested in sharing the art and science of astrophotography with youth in your community?   
  • Does your organization have an informal education program, partnerships with area community centers or middle schools and interest in providing enrichment activities for students based on STEM? 
  • Can your museum or organization implement a workshop for middle school students, underserved by science and technology educational programs, ages 12 – 18   (minimum of 10 or more students) and facilitate an 8 – 20 hour program? 
  • Would you like to learn how to organize and promote an exhibition of youth-created astronomy photographs? 

For more information on the program, join us for a Teleconference to discuss implementing Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos Program on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. 

Dial In:  1-877-860-3058
Participant Pass code:  607773
Call in and learn about participating in this program before registration goes live.  

Talk to SAO astronomy educators Mary Dussault and Erin Braswell. Smithsonian Affiliations representatives Christina Di Meglio Lopez and Caroline Mah will also be available to answer questions.

Follow the MicroObservatory’s Twitter feed; Facebook page; and Flickr photostream.

Telescopes "Ben" and "Cecilia" at the Whipple Observatory in Amado, AZ. Along with "Annie," located on the roof at SAO, they are three in a network of telescopes, controllable over the internet, helping students learn more about astronomy. Photo Credit: Dan Brocious/SAO.

musings from the new england museum association

SI Astrophysical Observatory's Black Holes exhibition, on view at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH

SI Astrophysical Observatory's Black Holes exhibition, on view at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH

One of the most interesting questions I heard asked at the New England Museum Association conference last week was, what’s the new non-profit normal?   There was a sense that both retrenching and rethinking are in order, but that steering museums through these turbulent times will produce changes that will last far beyond the economic crisis and our eventual recovery.

The new director of Affliate Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA), offered one such road map.  It’s hyper-attentive visitor experience, and a zero tolerance for unsatisfactory comments.  One of the results of recent visitor surveys at Plimoth revealed that 93% of their visitors report a very satisfactory experience.  Pretty good right?!  Except for director Ellie Donovan, a missionary for high-quality visitor experience in every regard.  She recognizes that the other 7% represent 25,000 people who are not shopping in the store for things to remember a bad experience, and are not saying nice things to their friends.  In short, that 7% represent thousands of dollars of potentially lost revenue, that no museum or historical site can stand to lose.  A powerful argument.     

The keynote speaker at NEMA made a nuanced plea for new non-profit normal too, that is, how museums need to step up to their role as builders of social capital in a community.  Social capital is a metric, measured by community and state by such statistics as the number of active voters, volunteerism, crime rates, even TV-watching rates (a negative indicator).  Unsurprisingly, his research has shown that, the higher the social capital, the higher are other rates of happiness indicators – education achievement, lower incarceration rates, etc.  Lewis Feldstein, President of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, challenged all the museum professionals present to ask themselves how their organizations are building social capital.  Do new immigrants come to your museum to learn about the community’s history or cultural activity?  Do local civic groups call you to use your facilities for meetings?  Is your staff serving on community boards, active and visible members of civic life in your city?  All (and more) are important questions for establishing the relevancy of museums to the contexts of their communities.

But not all the discussions at the conference were that deep and soul-searching.  I was lucky to see Black Holes: Space Warps and Time Twists, an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian’s Astrophysical Observatory, at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH.  (Ok, how many knew that Christa McAuliffe was a high school social studies teacher from Concord, NH High School?  Or that the quote, “I touch the future, I teach,” was hers?!)  It was a wonderfully interactive exhibit with a variety of media stations that allow the visitor to weigh black holes and dive into them, among other activities.    And I met the young enthusiastic safari-clad staff of scvngr – a do-it-yourself interface template for creating location-based, high-tech, mobile games.  So very fun.

Overall, a very pleasant, thought-provoking week in New England.  How about you – what’s the chatter at your regional association or museum?