A long time ago, in a place far, far away...... wait a minute, that has been done already. It does, however, make for a good segue into what I want to say in this new and very different section of your AOAS web site. Here, I will summarize through numerous upcoming articles what we have long wanted to do as one of the most active astronomy clubs (for our size) in the entire country.
Efforts are underway to provide AOAS with our own portable planetarium and science equipment which will benefit not only our club meetings and astronomy classes, but also area school systems. In addition to this, we also want to develop an advanced, remotely accessible, research-grade telescope and imaging system to be used for professional type observing programs by our members and will once again also be made available to area schools as well as the University of Arkansas Fort Smith.
This goal is the focus of a grant proposal which I am now working on. There are many reasons why we would like to offer these things to area schools, but the most important is that it has the potential to reach area students in ways which have yet to be tried. Research shows that American high school students score lower on science and mathematics tests than their counterparts in other countries. These subjects are integral to the study of Astronomy as well as to the jobs of the future. By offering a fun way to incorporate math and science into learning, we believe that students from our area will be better prepared for the high-tech jobs in Engineering and Technology which are sure to be in great demand in the near future.
This endeavor will not be easy to achieve, but as the saying goes, nothing worth having ever comes easily. If anything, we have learned that there is a natural wonder and curiosity about the science of Astronomy among the general public. Conversely, we have experienced the frustrations involved when trying to help area schools with their astronomy and space science sections during grades 4 through 6. When we have been asked to help area teachers with these subjects we have seen first hand how the kids in the classrooms were exceptionally keen on learning anything related to Astronomy and Space Science, with the teachers at least as interested. Yet the textbooks they use are sometimes woefully inadequate to the task of helping them learn the real basics of the science. Without learning the subject to a point of understanding, students quickly lose what they may pick up in our presentations.
What we propose to do is deliver a comprehensive and fun way to help every student and teacher learn Astronomy and Space Science to a point of true understanding then provide them with ways to keep the learning going well into higher grade levels, even into college.
This section of our site will present our argument for implementation of this project. I will show through intensive research that there is a desire among the general public and school systems for a better understanding of Astronomy and its related disciplines of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geology. I will also argue that for America to succeed as a technologically advanced country in the 21st century, we absolutely MUST improve our "civic scientific literacy" Not doing so will doom us to an eventual dependence on foreign-born scientists and technicians while our own crop of high school and college graduates do the grunt work and mop the laboratory floors.
So hang on. This will not be the light-hearted general subject articles and stories that we have published on our web site thus far. This will be a place that will make you think, may sometimes make you happy and sometimes make you fear for our very future as a technologically advanced society. Hopefully you will see what the consequences of apathy might be verses a potentially bright future which can be in store if we try to meet the challenges of keeping up with high technology. As this project progresses, I hope you will agree that what we are proposing could possibly make a significant difference in how we cope with our future.