NASA Crowns 16 Educators as Hubble "Top Stars"
Screenshot of the Hubble Top Stars Showcase website

Visit the Showcase section of the Hubble Top Stars website to download the winning education activities. Image Credit: NASA

A planetarium show, student-authored wiki pages and a card game are among the entries selected as Top Stars in the fourth and final round of a NASA-sponsored contest that invited U.S. formal and informal educators to submit their best examples of using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in science, technology, engineering or mathematics education.

"The variety, creativity and high quality of these materials are excellent examples of how Hubble and its images have inspired the creation of effective and diverse education products for all grade levels," said Bonnie McClain, NASA Hubble education plan co-lead.

The Showcase section of the Top Stars website includes downloadable materials from all Hubble activities selected as Top Stars.

Keith Turner, a teacher at Carmel High School in Carmel, Ind., earned Top Stars honors with his final project for a grades 10-12 astronomy or Earth/space science course. The project challenges students to identify and explain stellar properties of a constellation and present their findings on a planetarium dome.

"Hubble has been a way for me to share the process of science with students and how discovery generates new questions and unexpected results," said Turner, who was turned on to astronomy at a young age. "By the time I was 8, I had a small telescope I would look at the moon with. In sixth-grade I had a fabulous science teacher ... who was passionate about astronomy. He took our class to the nearby ... planetarium, and I was hooked."

One winning entry was a planetarium show created by informal educators AmyJo Proctor, Ron Proctor and Stacy Palen at Weber State University's Ott Planetarium in Ogden, Utah. Viewable online, the show introduces the electromagnetic spectrum and multi-wavelength observation with images from Hubble and other space telescopes. Audiences learn how images are captured and what the colors tell us about the composition of deep-sky objects.

"Many planetarium show producers try to reproduce Great Observatory observations with 3-D models instead of using the actual images -- these, while often lovely, fall flat because they are missing the scientific content and honesty that could be so inspiring to their audiences," the team wrote in its entry submission form. "We have developed techniques to give these 2-D images a 3-D feel, transforming the planetarium dome into a window on 3-D space."

Another winning trio was researchers Stephanie Slater, Timothy Slater and Daniel Lyons at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo., who work to improve the quantity and quality of astronomy teaching. The three were recognized as Top Stars for a series of research-based lessons that use the Hubble Deep Field image to engage and educate undergraduate students not majoring in science. As part of the lessons, students generate their own research questions and investigate the characteristics and distribution of galaxies.

The following is a complete list of round-four winners:
  • Kareen Borders, Lakebay, Wash.: "Mission Hubble! Equipping the Next Generation of Explorers" (middle school).
  • Jacky Byatt, Houston, Texas: "Twenty Years of Hubble" (middle school).
  • Caroline Goode, Framingham, Mass.: "The Magic of Hubble" (informal education).
  • C. Renee James, Huntsville, Texas: "The Life and Death of Bob (a.k.a. NGC 6397) in an Introductory College-Level Astronomy Course" (undergraduate).
  • Joan Labay-Marquez, Boerne, Texas: "Playground Planetarium" (elementary school).
  • Carrie Murray, West Chester, Ohio: "Hubble Space Telescope Inspired Research Wiki Pages" (elementary school).
  • AmyJo Proctor, Ron Proctor and Stacy Palen, Ogden, Utah: "Expanded View" (informal education).
  • Stephanie Slater, Timothy Slater and Daniel Lyons, Laramie, Wyo.: "Using HST to Scaffold Student-driven Scientific Inquiry" (undergraduate).
  • Brian Tanner and Dave Brown, Columbus, Ind.: "STS-125 Hubble 'Jr. Mission Experts' Program" (high school).
  • Keith Turner, Carmel, Ind.: "Adopt a Constellation: Final Project" (high school).
  • John Williams, Golden, Colo.: "Hubble Star Cards" (informal education).
Recognition and Awards

All Top Stars winners receive the following recognition and awards:
  • A high-quality photo print (48 inches by 24 inches) of a Hubble image.
  • Invitation to attend a special briefing by a Hubble scientist or engineer via teleconference.
  • Recognition as Top Stars on NASA websites.
The top-10 Top Stars -- scheduled to be announced this summer -- will be recognized as "Gold Stars" and will receive the following in addition to the Top Stars prizes:
  • An official letter of commendation from NASA.
  • An invitation to present their entry to other educators nationwide using the NASA Digital Learning Network.
  • A pair of IMAX movie tickets that can be used to see "Hubble 3D."
  • A "Hubble 3D" movie poster for classroom display.
Also, educators selected as Gold Stars will be featured in articles on NASA's website.

The Top Stars contest is conducted by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, or IGES, in cooperation with the Space Telescope Science Institute. Submissions were accepted from individuals and from teams of up to four members and included any combination of text, graphics, video and photos.

For more information, please visit http://topstars.strategies.org.

Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies