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Stars, Sight and Science
Lisa Hunter
Lead Instructors:
Lynne Raschke (astronomy), Gene Switkes (vision science)

Participants: 15 high school students
June 29 - July 26, 2003
University of California Santa Cruz

Opportunities for CfAO Members to Get Involved:

  • Helping the instructional team incorporate more inquiry into the current astronomy research projects.
  • Designing an entirely new astronomy project for summer 2004 that incorporates inquiry and other research-based teaching practices.
  • Helping the instructional team revise the current labs and other activities, specifically with the intention of adding more inquiry and
    developing assessment tools.
  • Spending 3 weeks at UCSC serving as an astronomy research project advisor.

High school participants will spend four weeks at UC Santa Cruz, in a course cluster entitled "Stars, Sight and Science," offered through the COSMOS program at UCSC. Participants will live on campus, with the other COSMOS students, and will complete three courses along with a host of other pre-college enrichment activities. The three courses are: 1) Astronomy Today: Observing the Universe; 2) Human Vision: Photons, Proteins, and Perception; and 3) Science Communication.

Astronomy Today: Observing the Universe and Human Vision: Photons, Proteins, and Perception were developed by CfAO scientists in Year 2. Science Communication is a COSMOS-wide course that is offered with each of its ten course clusters. The Science Communication instructor works closely with instructional staff to deliver material integrated with course content.

Course #1: Human Vision: Photons, Proteins, and Perception.
Human Vision: Photons, Proteins, and Perception will follow the path of visual information processing from its origins in the properties of light to complex processing involved in visual illusions. Each of the four weeks will focus on particular aspects of the visual system. The material will be presented in various formats: interactive-presentations and demonstrations by staff, laboratory exercises, and field trips to local museums and institutions involved in aspects of vision. In collaboration with the science communication course in the CfAO module--via writing, oral presentation and preparation of a CfAO/COSMOS WWW site--students will chronicle their understanding of the scientific information on vision as well as their experiences.

Light, structure of the eye, chemistry of visual transduction, adaptive optics, clinical aspects of optical dysfunction, how neurons transmit visual information, color vision, visual Illusions, cognitive aspects of vision.

The course will use the theme of adaptive optics to link together the disciplines of astronomy and vision and illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of many frontier areas of research (e.g. the study of vision involving the disciplines of physics, chemistry, neuroscience, engineering and psychology). Students will also learn about dysfunction of the visual system from optical, genetic, and organic causes. They will also learn how techniques from adaptive optics are being used in LASIK corrective eye surgery. Special attention will be given to the unifying features of adaptive optics and the three aspects of the CfAO module. Instructors in the vision and astronomy courses coordinate the presentation of material on light and optics, which is central to both courses.

Course #2: Astronomy Today: Observing the Universe
In the past 20 years, advances in technology have allowed astronomers to make some of the most amazing discoveries about our universe. In this course, students will explore not only the objects in our universe but also the technology and techniques astronomers use to learn about the universe.

The course will begin by taking students on a tour of objects in the universe and their relative sizes and scales. Then students will learn about the physics of light and optics and how telescopes work. In the final sessions, students will explore new and advanced technologies such as very large telescopes and space telescopes, as well as adaptive optics, a new technique that makes images from ground-based telescopes as sharp as images taken from space.

The most exciting part of this course will occur in the final two weeks of the program when students will get to apply what they have learned to an astronomical research project. Students will be involved with every aspect of the project, from the acquisition of data at the telescope to the final analysis of the results. We are also planning a field trip to Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton so that students will get to see a working research observatory.

Course #3: Science Communication
The COSMOS Science Communication course will explore not only how real scientists share their discoveries with the world, but how they use writing to make those discoveries in the first place. Students will learn how to log data and take notes on lectures and readings, and to think about information in different ways to find patterns. The Science Communication instructor will help students prepare a science intensive web site to articulate their scientific understanding, to chronicle their experiences, and to provide a basis for the students making use of some of their summer's work in presentations to their peers in their home schools. In Year 4, the Science Communication course will expand to include mechanisms for both the instructors and the students to assess their understanding of the course topics and their general progress in the course.


Last Modified: Jul 18, 2007 

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