American Association of Physics Teachers
Chesapeake Section


Spring 2005 Section Meeting

Lynchburg College

Lynchburg, VA 24501

March 11-12, 2005


"Project CLEA in the 21st Century: Observational Astronomy Simulations in the Instructional Laboratory"

Dick Cooper, Gettysburg College


Though the value of hands-on learning has long been recognized by educators, it is difficult to design laboratories in astronomy classes that present realistic astrophysical techniques to undergraduate students. Unlike most other sciences, astronomy is largely observational, not experimental, and making useful observations involves expensive equipment over time scales inconvenient for pedagogy. In recent years, however, astronomy has gone almost completely digital, and the advent of large on-line data bases and fast personal computers has made it possible to realistically simulate the experience of research astrophysics in the laboratory.

Since 1992, Project CLEA (Contemporary Laboratory Experiences in Astronomy) has been developing such computer-based exercises aimed primarily at the introductory astronomy laboratory. These exercises simulate important techniques of astronomical research using digital data and Windows-based software. Each of the 11 exercises developed to date consists of software, technical guides for teachers, and student manuals for the exercises. CLEA software is used at many institutions in all the United States and over 60 countries world-wide, in a variety of settings from middle school to upper-class astronomy classes. We will describe and demonstrate some of the CLEA materials and talk about our design philosophy.

Two new labs will be demonstrated and handed out to all participants along with, ALL the current software and documentation. Plans for future development will be presented. Project CLEA is supported by grants from Gettysburg College and the National Science Foundation.

The workshop will be held on Friday, March 11th, in the Technology Classroom (Hobbs Hall 124), 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. (Photo)


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