We seek to nurture and foster educational programs that involve what we sometimes call 'the edge' of our understanding of astrophysics. We feel strongly that it is these areas that have the most potential to excite young minds and to help the greater public understand the role of what some would call 'risky' research.
One of our favorite things about the pictures you see on this website is that it’s hard to figure out who the high school students are and who the college students are. We regard this as a strength of our program –that the people doing the teaching are very close in age to those being taught. This is important to the high school students who are about to graduate from high school and are wondering, “what are my options?” They see what the college students are doing and the world opens up to them. As our high school teacher (and F&M alumnus) said this year to Laura and Kara “they love you because they want to be you!”
In 2008-9 Franklin and Marshall sophomore Laura Perkowski and first-year Kara Loveland taught astronomy to 75 high school physics students at Lancaster's public high school, J. P. McCaskey. The program was designed by Laura as part of an independent study project under the guidance of F&M professor Andrea Lommen. Remote observing in Australia via internet is an integral part of the course. In 2009-10 Delphine Perrodin, a postdoctoral fellow working with Lommen, expanded the program to include all 9 McCaskey physics classes, for a total of 225 students.
Astronomy Open House
In the spring the F&M Physics and Astronomy physics and astronomy majors host an open house for all McCaskey students who take part in MARIE. We have 5 stations: spectroscopy, galaxy crash (using simulations), virtual tour of the universe (self-guided), telescope observing (Saturn was the hit of the evening in 2009) and finally a session where the high school students simply had the opportunity to ask questions about college life.
Every year, in January at the Center for Gravitational Wave Physics at Penn State University, we bring together people with whom this idea resonates for a two-day meeting. The first day is devoted entirely to the presentation of undergraduate research projects by the undergraduate students themselves. The second day is devoted to presenting current outreach programs, discussing how they can be improved and hopefully borrowing from each other's successes. The web site of the meeting is here.