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The Message of Starlight

Shared by teacher workshop participant Eileen Grzybowski on June 2, 2014

I love to learn and consider myself a lifelong learner. My original degrees are in Biology and Botany, but my first love of Astronomy began at the age of 5 when I first saw the Milky Way from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Growing up in the wilds of New York City brought me to learn at the Hayden Planetarium in as many "Astronomy for Young People" courses as my parents would allow.

I have been teaching a one semester Astronomy course for high school students since the Fall of 2004. From the beginning, I have sought professional development opportunities to extend and update my knowledge and authentic research experiences that I could turn into investigations for my students.

Big Telescope

Shared by teacher workshop participant Scott Demaree on April 26, 2014

I was lucky enough to get to the observatory two summers in a row for teacher workshops. On the second of these, I got my hands on a "real" telescope. No, not a research instrument. I was honored to collect photons with my own eyes through the 36-inch, by far the largest telescope I've ever used. Starting at age 12 with a 4.25-inch reflector, over the years, I worked up to a 10-inch. And I have observed objects with telescopes as large as 20 inches.

But this was a real treat!

Starry, Starry Night

Shared by teacher workshop participant Jody Harkrider on April 13, 2014

I had forgotten what a truly dark sky could produce ... the magic, the infinity, the glorious majesty, and the over whelming feeling of being a part of something far greater than everyday life. The abundance of stars crashed over me like a giant wave the instant I walked out of the transient quarters at the McDonald Observatory in west Texas late one July night. I was one of 16 teachers chosen to broaden their astronomical horizons through the American Astronomical Society Teacher Resource Agent program (AASTRA). Dr. Mary Kay Hemenway and her graduate assistant, Pamela Gay, were our guides, instructors and mentors through five nights of observation and work on the 76 centimeter telescope. But all I could think of that first night as I walked with my head held back at a 90 degree angle to my body was, “I forgot.”

Boot Camp!

Shared by teacher workshop participant John Farmer on April 9, 2014

This was my very first trip to the observatory! Having no idea where the observatory was at, but knowing it was going to take me eight hours to drive, I packed my belongings late the night before, after being at school all day teaching my junior high kiddos, and got minimal sleep. I left my home a little earlier than normal and drove non stop, except for fuel and food of course, by myself. Then taking that winding road (118) off the Interstate up to the mountain top, was a bit more than I was ready for, but because I procrastinated felt it would be just fine. I knew I would check in, get my lodging, at the time it was at the Indian Lodge and then get me some rest for the next day's activities! Little did I know it would resemble boot camp I had attended some 30 years earlier in San Antonio!

First and Best

Shared by teacher workshop participant Sherre Boothman on April 8, 2014

I was allowed to offer Astronomy for the first time it was taught for the 2006-2007 school year at Lehman High School in Kyle, TX. My Department Chair recommended the Professional Development at McDonald Observatory, so I applied to attend two seminars. I loved the summer experience at McDonald Observatory! McDonald Observatory was the first working professional observatory I had ever visited. May of 2006 I brought my first group of students to McDonald Obs and it really changed their lives in the most positive ways.