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Preparing Educators for the Eclipse

When a partial eclipse is visible in Fort Worth on Monday, Aug. 21, teachers who participated in the Andrews Institute of Mathematics & Science Education Teacher Quality Granting Program will be ready to share the real-life learning experience with their students.

Beau Hartweg, a Ph.D. candidate in Science Education and planetarium educator, brought the solar eclipse to life using the Frontiers of Flight Museum’s portable planetarium, called Space Portal Odyssey Capsule or SPOC for short. SPOC inflates to 6 meters and seats up to 60 children or 40 adults. The teachers viewed a short film called “Eclipse: Countdown to Totality” simulating the total solar eclipse that will be visible over some parts of the U.S. The film was written and directed by Hartweg while he interned at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s Noble Planetarium and it won first place in the WorldWide Telescope Tours planetarium category and the special prize in the solar eclipse category.

“The hope is to have the teachers use the eclipse as a teaching tool for their students,” Hartweg said. “Often we talk about science being disconnected from the real world but science impacts us every day.”

After the planetarium demonstration, Hartweg helped teachers create models and talked about how to safely view a partial or total eclipse, using solar eclipse glasses and solar telescopes. The Andrews Institute provided eclipse glasses for the teachers to give to their students. The Andrews Institute is also partnering with TCU’s College of Education, College of Science & Engineering and Student Affairs for an eclipse viewing party on campus.

Hartweg has led planetarium demonstrations for many children and works with preservice teachers to improve science instruction. He won the 2016 College of Education Research & Pedagogy Festival, doctoral category for his research, Factors Influencing Planetarium Educators at a Museum. His dissertation research focuses how interacting in a live planetarium shapes the experiences of students and audience members. He said planetariums provide a unique learning opportunity.

“It’s really a way to engage students, capture their imaginations and hopefully inspire them to want to learn more about science and space,” Hartweg said.

About the Teacher Quality Granting Program

The Teacher Quality Granting Program is hosted by the Andrews Institute of Mathematics & Science Education in the College of Education and provides hands-on professional development for area teachers. The program provides content deepening sessions for three weeks in the summer and one Saturday per month. Andrews Institute Director, Professor and William L. & Betty F. Adams Chair of Education Molly Weinburgh brought the program to TCU with a grant funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.