McDonald Observatory reports compiled as resource for astronomy classes

Diego Cruz

UT’s McDonald Observatory provided years of astronomy content for Project Share, an online resource for Texas teachers, on Thursday.

Project Share gives Texas teachers access to instruction materials from a variety of sources including museums, universities and newspapers, said DeEtta Culbertson, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

Culbertson said the agency developed the project two years ago in collaboration with The New York Times Knowledge Network, the PBS Digital Learning Library and Epsilen, an online learning platform.

“There is multimedia content that can be used in the classroom and then there’s other content that teachers can use for online professional training,” she said.

On Thursday UT’s StarDate, a branch of the McDonald Observatory, announced the addition of years’ worth of radio scripts and other content to Project Share, said Rebecca Johnson, editor of StarDate magazine
and spokeswoman.

Johnson said StarDate has produced a two-minute daily radio program for 34 years, providing content related to astronomy such as sky-watching tips and guides to the solar system and constellations.

“In addition to the scripts we also have an image archive, we have some videos, but the bulk of the content are the radio script archives,” she said.

Johnson said StarDate has gathered information and images from interviews, research and a variety of institutes nationwide including NASA, observatories and other universities.

“It’s just a way for us to get our information out to different audiences, to help improve science literacy and to help people understand more about how astronomy in particular and science in general works,” she said.

Culbertson said after applying for Project Share with the Texas Education Agency teachers can access the educational materials for free.

More than 160,000 teachers have already gained access to the online community, she said.

Culbertson said teachers can formulate lesson plans with material provided by different organizations and can also access teaching development courses in the areas of mathematics, social studies, English and science.

Felice Nudelman, executive director of education for The New York Times Company said Project Share uses the portal Epsilen as its primary platform.

Epsilen provides an immersive experience for users through Web 2.0 learning space, online portfolios, interactive video photography and utilities for other content providers, Nudelman said.

“What we’ve done is we’ve created a digital content repository,” she said.

As teachers formulate lesson plans on Project Share a search element uses key words to provide relevant content from different providers that can then be applied in the lesson, Nudelman said.