Reflections on Luisa's first science partners partnership.

This partnership was part of a much larger partnership program run by the Oak Park Public Schools. It's one of the more conventional scientist-teacher partnership programs whereby a scientist adopts a classroom for the year. Vivian Hoette (from Adler) and I teamed up to be two 5th grade classrooms' scientists. We visited their school (Longfellow Elementary) in Oak Park twice, and they came to see us at Adler twice. We focused on stars - their different colors, sizes, temperatures, distances, what they're made of, how they form, how they live, how they die.

First, we collected from the kids something called "KWLs": What do you Know, what do you Want to know, and what did you Learn (to be filled in afterwards). I've typed in all the real KWLs I have from the kids. This was an incredibly useful technique, and one I think I will always try to use. (This was one of the most important things I learned from the experience.)

Then, using this information, we visited the classroom and talked about stars in general, shooting stars, and how stars form. (You can see from the KWLs why we chose to deal with shooting stars and star formation in our first lesson.) We also used Vivian's way cool Star Cards lab. (This lab is included in the ASP's Project Astro notebook, available for purchase at their website.) Each kid gets a card with a star's "stats" on it - it's constellation, name, location, color, temperature, apparent and absolute magnitude, size, mass, distance, and spectral type. Then we have the kids suggest ways to sort themselves and have them do it. (Point is that not all stars are the same color, or distance, or size...)

They came to Adler next, and visited the Light! Spectra! Action! exhibit. We used another one of Vivian's Way Cool Ideas (tm) where the kids broke up into 3 person teams, named their "research lab", and investigated several of the hands-on exhibits in the L!S!A! setup. Then, we returned to the lecture hall and had a "scientific conference" where each group reported one of their lab's conclusions about the exhibits. It was, as you might expect, very interesting to see what they learned and what they chose to report.

We went back to Oak Park next, and used one of my Hare Brained Schemes (tm) where we had the kids act out the Longfellow Cluster, from star formation through the end of time. I have HTMLified the lesson plan. I think I had some good ideas, but it still needs some work. The day we went was kind of chaotic for the kids for other reasons, so I don't think it was a fair test of the lesson. Vivian and I hope to run it again for another group, possibly a group of teachers.

The next time they came to Adler, I was flat on my back doped on muscle relaxant with a screaming headache from neck muscle spasms, so I wasn't there :(. They worked with Hands On Universe stuff and saw the latest skyshow. This might have been where all the "what is the first star" and questions about the big bang that got added to the KWLs came from.

Also, somewhere in there, the Oak Park project included something called the "Young Scientist's Conference", where the kids whose classes didn't get scientists this year could sign up for a morning's worth of classes (2) offered by the scientists involved. We did Vivian's Star Cards lab again and generally took questions on stars and tried to deal with some of their misconceptions about stars head-on.