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Last weekend, October 22-24, was the California Science Teachers Association's annual conference in Sacramento. The conference featured 14 hours of workshops, two general sessions, six focus speakers, four field courses, 16 short courses, as well as keynote speakers Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from the television show Mythbusters.
There were five very well attended sessions focusing on astronomy education including: Our Solar System through the Eyes of Scientists, NASA Heliophysics, NASA's SDO Mission Presents: Exploring the Sun with Spectroscopy, NASA's WISE Mission Presents: Cool Astronomy, and NASA's WISE Mission Presents: Size and Scale of the Universe. The teachers in the sessions were very keen to learn how to engage their students with hands-on materials and projects to help them grasp the scale of the solar system, the electromagnetic spectrum, and how astronomers work. The resources presented applied to students of a variety of ages, levels and backgrounds, and will be useful in a variety of settings.
The keynote session with the Mythbusters was both entertaining and inspiring. Teachers all across the US are finding their students more interested and engaged in science and the process of experimentation and exploration by watching the Mythbusters test myths, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but always having fun and enjoying the process. In many classrooms, teachers plan their Thursday morning to be a discussion of the Wednesday night Mythbusters episode.
The conference ended on an optimistic note about the future of science education including the news that President Obama recently hosted the first ever White House Science Fair in an effort to give science education as big a spotlight as sports, noting that the most common background of CEOs in S&P 500 companies is engineering.
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