In order to meet the challenges of the 21st century, from the ever-evolving information explosion to the demands and competition of a global economy, students at all levels must receive a firm foundation in math and science knowledge. This prepares them for a workplace that will increasingly demand these skills. In response to the needs, Roane State Community College is supporting the organization of Tamke-Allan Observatory as it provides an exciting, research-quality environment for students and faculty, to engage in collaborative projects and science education. The public is invited to participate in public stargazes, short courses, and seminars geared to the general astronomical interest.
In July, 1998, Roane State Community College dedicated an observatory and environmental studies facility that includes a state-of-the-art classroom , a photographic darkroom, and the observatory dome. The facility is located on a hilltop site high above Watts Bar Lake, and is ideally suited for astronomical observation.
Whom does the Observatory serve?
The purpose of this facility is not only to be an Astronomy center but to also create a hub of support for innovative science and in particular, astronomy, learning activities. Roane State's largely rural school systems have little access to professional, workplace relevant laboratory resources for the teaching of science in the K- 12 grades. Through a wide variety of outreach activities, the Observatory proposes to link discovery to active and workplace relevant learning for K- 12 students in the college's service area. In order to lead to more systemic advancement, the Center also features training for K-12 math and science teachers and provides take-along and Web based resources to use in their own classrooms.
Because student learning is enhanced when family involvement is high, the Center also engages the community in discovery-based science activities open to the public.
Roane State Community College serves an eight-county area, including Roane, Anderson, Campbell, Scott, Loudon, Cumberland, Fentress, and Morgan counties. Because the college's main campus and the observatory facility are located in Roane County, the service area serves students, faculty, and community members in those counties close enough to participate in on-site activities. In order to extend the observatory's outreach, the Observatory's Web page links RSCC's instructors to students, teachers, and the general public in outlying counties.
TAO introduces the regional community to the wonders of the night sky and creates a positive learning experience through its optical and radio telescopes. In the classroom, TAO provides opportunities for all students and teachers to engage in astronomy-related projects or research. TAO fosters relations wiht groups with similar scientific and astronomical interest, and to preserve the beauty of the dark skies by increasing awareness and supporting efforts to ensure it.
Tamke-Allan Observatory is placing emphasis on participation by schools in Roane County. TAO seeks to enhance the active nature and workplace relevance of science education in grades K- 12 and to engage the local community in science activities which will augment and support the efforts of the schools. The Center's program includes the following activities:
- a science outreach program for K-12 schools featuring on-site solar observing and science demonstration projects. The center director and other RSCC faculty will work with participating K-12 teachers to develop student science projects. The program features both on-site activities and internet linked interactions;
- partnership in astronomy activities with local volunteer organizations, such as Scout groups, senior and service groups, and nature groups for utilizing the facility and grounds as well as improving and beautifying the area;
- public stargazes and public access to the facility
In addition to instruction provided by the centers director and RSCC faculty, the program also benefits from volunteer services and cooperative partnerships with various local amateur astronomy societies including ORION, SMAS, the National Forestry Service, and area universities for facility use, equipment sharing, and mentoring for student science projects. The Observatory Director works with area schools to enhance awareness among parents of opportunities for families to participate together in science discovery activities at the Center.
Programs for both students and teachers focus on linking discovery and learning to engage both in a more active - and interactive - process. On-site activities and information link learning in astronomy, physics, ecology, and geology to work opportunities and skills required in such disciplines.
What outcomes or results does the Center aim to achieve?
Roane State's goal in developing its Observatory is to improve the science literacy of students, teachers, and the public within the communities it serves.
In much of Roane State's service area, students enrolling at the college are the first in their families to do so. By reaching out to area K-12 schools, the Center will provide access to professional-quality scientific equipment and resources for a diverse student population which is underserved in the area of twenty-first century relevant science educational activities. Through contact with instructors and program project leaders, students will become increasingly aware of career opportunities in the sciences and develop an interest in continuing their education to pursue the skills necessary for employment in these fields. Participating students will improve their knowledge and skills in scientific subjects and methods through discovery based, workplace relevant activities and hands-on projects.
The key to widespread dissemination of enhanced science education in grades K-12 is faculty professional development. Through opportunities for on-site workshops and on-line interactions, the Centers program will increase the number of K-12 teachers in Roane State's eight -county service area who are engaged in discovery based science learning activities in their classrooms. The program will also facilitate K-12 teachers in using technology to enhance the instructional experience and link classroom learning to workplace experience.
Families and the Community:
The National Science Foundation, in their position paper on Educating for the Future, emphasizes that "dynamic changes expected in science, engineering, and technology in the 21st century will require not only a diverse pool of highly-educated scientists and engineers but "a scientifically literate citizenry" as well. Public access and family oriented activities planned for the Center will increase parental involvement in the discovery/learning process of their children. The opportunity to utilize state-of-the-art college facilities and to interact with college faculty in an enjoyable, non-threatening environment will help to attract first generation students to a postsecondary education.