|LIGO Hanford Observatory
Our vision for science education in Washington State:
Professional scientists tend to believe that science is a valuable and enjoyable pursuit that uses creativity and imagination along with disciplined, careful thought. Science education experiences should foster these attitudes in the broader population. Inquiry-based opportunities that spark curiosity and invite open-ended thinking will encourage individuals to engage with science more deeply. Science opportunities should meet the developmental and substantial needs of preschoolers, youth, young adults and adults.
The K-12 system, community colleges and universities carry the primary responsibility for delivering formal science education to their respective constituencies. These institutions should collaborate with each other to provide a seamless standards-based program for all science learners that focuses on interest, appreciation and skill. Local and regional science organizations such as LIGO should actively partner with the formal deliverers at all levels to contribute to the science development of students and teachers.
The science development of preschoolers and adults largely occurs outside of the formal education system. In this realm, science organizations can partner with science centers and other informal specialists to create interesting family-based events and programs. Such programs should compliment the efforts of the formal providers and offer science opportunities that appeal to all family members.
Science Advocacy Efforts:
For K-12 groups LIGO offers field trips to the Observatory site that will serve roughly 900 students in 2006. In addition to learning about LIGO’s search for gravitational waves, student guests interact with a dozen hands-on exhibits related to wave behavior and gravity. The exhibits are correlated to Washington State science standards. Nearly a dozen university groups will also visit in 2006, bringing science majors and education majors to the site.
Regional chapters of MESA and GEAR UP headquarter at WSU Tri-Cities have partnered with LIGO to bring classrooms of predominantly Hispanic student on field trips. For families, LIGO annually participates in the hosting of several public events. In 2006 these have included an Observatory open house and two stargazing events. In partnership with MESA and GEAR UP, LIGO hosted a bilingual Spanish-English family science activity in April and will offer another in October. In 2005, LIGO joined with Columbia Basin College and the Tri-City Astronomy Club for two bilingual public astronomy events at the College’s Moore Observatory. For teachers LIGO hosts a WSU Tri-Cities summer graduate course, The Nature of Scientific Inquiry, with instruction provided by WSU Tri-Cities faculty. Observatory staff members assist with instruction and participate in several of the course activities.
LIGO holds a high interest in the current higher education transition underway in the Tri-Cities as the local WSU campus moves to four-year status. The Observatory participates in a higher education advisory group that gives input to this process. The Tri-Cities community has provided the Washington Legislature with a roadmap for the transition that emphasizes the integration of education efforts across all ages. This goal aligns strongly with LIGO’s interest in comprehensively promoting science in southeastern Washington.
The Observatory relies on a 14-member outreach advisory group for guidance on the development of its outreach programs. The group includes representation from the education, technical and business communities. Its diversity is an important asset as LIGO pursues strategies for contributing to science interest and literacy.