A Postcard from Chicago…and Outer Space?

This Letter from the Field was shared with us by Julie Feldt, MSP12.

I’m having a stellar time working at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago! I work in the Citizen Science group on education projects for Zooniverse, a nonprofit organization housed at the Adler. Citizen Science actively involves the general public in scientific research through assistance to scientists in massive data collection and analysis projects that can be done much faster with crowdsourcing. Our office is a mixture of scientists, web developers, graphic designers, and educators. We are on the exhibit floor, which means visitors can see us working and talk to us about Zooniverse. It has been really cool to see visitor reaction to observing scientists and web developers at work.

My summer project has been developing and testing lessons for Zooniverse’s Skype in the Classroom partner page that will utilize both Zooniverse and Adler Planetarium assets. Since I started my internship I have also had the opportunity to do some school visits around the Chicago area and assist in organizing a professional development workshop to be held for teachers who use Zooniverse projects in their classrooms.

I started off the summer doing a lot of research into how other museums have used Skype in the Classroom and Google+ to provide lessons for those unable to travel to a museum. I also researched what type of science experiences teachers are seeking from an institution or scientist. After completing my research and presenting a few ideas to my mentors, we came up with a “Meet the Scientist” series of lessons as well as virtual school visit lessons for me to work on. The former will be video conversation experiences that enable classrooms or children’s clubs to meet scientists from the Adler or a Zooniverse project, while the latter will allow students to enjoy a Zooniverse school visit from anywhere in the world. The Zooniverse school visits have introduced local schools to what citizen science is and to Zooniverse projects for a couple of years now, but only in the Chicago area. Zooniverse is a multiple institution project that includes Oxford University and Zooniverse participants are from all over the world, so educational efforts need to be provided globally.

For the first “Meet the Scientist” lesson, I’m working with a Galaxy Zoo project scientist (Karen Masters from the University of Portsmouth) on developing a lesson for her to meet a classroom with an interest in using Galaxy Zoo and understanding more about what the scientists do with the data analysis from the website. I have really enjoyed working with the scientist and discussing how to best communicate the subject matter to middle or high school age students via Skype. We’ll be testing the lesson on teachers at the workshop and we’ll ask the teachers for feedback. Then the Galaxy Zoo scientist and I can finalize a lesson to be offered using Skype in the Classroom in the fall.

When my internship is over there will be lesson plans and a schedule developed for this new application of Skype in the Classroom for the Zooniverse educators. I may try to come back to the Adler in the fall as a volunteer to continue being part of these efforts. I also hope to eventually end up in the Chicago area because the museum community here is amazing and the partnerships being built with each other, Chicago Public Schools, and the Loyola University Education Department makes this an exciting time to be a part of the museum scene in Chicago.

Hope all is well at Michigan!
Julie Feldt, MSP12