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Project ASTRO is a national program creating partnerships between teachers and students in grades 4 - 9 with amateur and professional astronomers. The project was created in 1993 by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

To date there are nine Project ASTRO National Expansion Sites, including Project ASTRO UTAH.

Project ASTRO UTAH is co-sponsored by the Clark Foundation and Clark Planetarium. The project encourages collaboration among Utah universities, aerospace businesses, astronomy clubs, planetariums, and Utah schools. The Clark Foundation is deeply grateful to the members of the Project ASTRO UTAH Coalition for their generous commitment of resources and staff.

Project ASTRO UTAH's goal is to enhance the core science curriculum for Utah sixth-grade students, the grade level in which students receive their first serious introduction to astronomy.

In the 1998-99 school year, 29 teams of astronomers and teachers are participating in Project ASTRO UTAH in fourteen Utah school districts. The Utah State Office of Education provides invaluable assistance in selecting the participating schools and teachers for the project.

Project ASTRO teachers and astronomers receive two days of intensive training with their partners. At these training workshops, each team receives a variety of teaching resources, including an extensive collection of classroom activity guides, videotapes, computer software, slides and posters.

Each astronomer makes a minimum of four visits to the teacher-partner's class during the school year. During these visits, the teacher and astronomer cooperate to present an astronomy activity using the materials provided during their training workshop. Often, astronomers and teachers will arrange field trips for the class to a planetarium or an evening "star party" either at an observatory or using telescopes brought to the school.

Prior to their first visit, astronomer-partners often visit with "their" class as an observer, just to get a feel for the classroom dynamics and the communication and discipline style of their teacher-partner. Students are not told that the visitor is "their" astronomer until the first working visit by the astronomer to the class.

An important feature of Project ASTRO is that through multiple visits with them, students get to know their astronomer as a "regular person." They see that people who pursue astronomy, either as a career or hobby, are not the one-dimensional stereotypes shown in movies or on TV.

Often, the first Project ASTRO activity teachers give their students is to ask them to draw a picture of what they think "their" astronomer will look like prior to his/her first visit with the class. The results are as revealing as they are entertaining. Here's an example!

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