Dr. Michael Bechtel, Wartburg associate professor of science education, and elementary education majors Jennifer Wiley, Hannah Janes and Johanna Vander Wilt began 2020 in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) winter meeting.

The group presented the results of a year’s worth of work with a NASA researcher. The group collaborated with an elite group of teachers and researchers from Massachusetts, Kansas and Mississippi throughout 2019 as part of the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program.

The organization has partnered small groups of educators with a research astronomer for original research projects for more than a decade.

Luisa Rebull, associate research scientist at the California Institute of Technology and director of the NASA/IPAC program, directed the teams as they performed research to identify Young Stellar Objects (YSOs), or stars in the earliest stages of development, in the Lagoon Nebula (M8).

“Through our research, we were able to identify 185 likely YSOs,” James said. The Wartburg team created lesson plans using the research that were developmentally appropriate for preschool through eighth grade students in accordance with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Before presenting their research and lesson plans in Honolulu, the team shared it with students in the Denver, Iowa school district. The team also used their lesson plans to teach home-schooled students who partnered with Wartburg for science lessons.

“It was fun because with the homeschoolers, there was kindergarten through sixth grade,” Vander Wilt said. “It was interesting to take what we were learning as college students and college professors and make it so an 8-year-old could understand. They [the students] think it’s so cool. If you would have told me that I was going to do this three years ago, I would’ve laughed at you.”

In addition to the AAS meeting, the group also presented the research findings at the Iowa Academy of Science Conference and the Hawaiian International Conference of Education.

“I got a hands-on experience on what astronomy research looks like and have a better understanding of what other disciplines the field can involve,” Bechtel said. “I think my best summative explanation is that I met a lot of great people doing really, really interesting and important projects.”

For more information on the NASA/IPAC program, go to nitarp.ipac.caltech.edu.



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