Infrared astronomy in science and education

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Mayeur, Paul Anthony
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Electronic thesis
Multidisciplinary science
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The science research the lesson followed looks at the interstellar dust cloud DC 314.8-5.1, which is unique because of the cloud's proximity to a B-type star with no known association. This thesis did a survey of the area looking for background sources that can be used for future spectroscopical studies. Further, the survey led to the discovery of two possible young stellar objects.
The scientist then worked with five teachers to edit the lesson for each teacher's classroom. For four of five teachers the lesson changed from an online based lesson that used Excel to a PowerPoint presentation and paper graphing. It is shown here that partnerships between scientists and educators are beneficial for both parties as it allows scientists to understand how to communicate their scientific findings to the general public, while allowing teachers to stay updated with the most advanced science research.
This dissertation looks at the effects of an educator-scientist partnership on the creation of an inquiry based science lesson for the middle school classroom. The lesson was initially created by a scientist following their science research, but changed as the scientist began working with teachers. The changes in the lesson show that scientists and educators may not agree on what is considered appropriate for a science lesson because of time commitment and grade level. However, by working together the partnership is able to reach a compromise of the lesson that allows for the students to get the best possible outcome. This dissertation also shows that science research is a method of inquiry, which can be brought to the classroom through inquiry education.
In order to fuel educator-scientist interaction and to bring inquiry education into the middle school classroom a scientist created a web-based science lesson that incorporated real NASA data into the middle-school classroom. This lesson was based on the scientist's research in infrared astronomy within the broader context of astrobiology. The lesson includes students plotting real data; in the process the students learn about infrared radiation, star color, and the wavelength/temperature relationship. These are all topics that were studied in the scientist's research, which led the scientist to the idea of creating a lesson for the middle-school classroom. This lesson is based on the principles of inquiry-based learning. Inquiry lessons can bring together these ideas into one place and hopefully inspire new generations to explore the world and universe through science.
August 2013
School of Science
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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