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Paper: Service Learning in Astronomy: (Virtual) Community Outreach
Volume: 531, ASP2020: Embracing the Future: Astronomy Teaching and Public Engagement
Page: 193
Authors: Beck, J.
Abstract: The areas of outreach and education in Astronomy have experienced enthusiastic growth at the University of North Carolina Asheville in recent years. Lookout Observatory, a partnership between the university and the Astronomy Club of Asheville, is an ideal facility for hosting public observing nights and school visits, as well as for undergraduate astronomy education and research projects. At UNCA we hire undergraduate students to serve as observatory docents. In order to improve our docent training opportunities and to expand our outreach efforts, we planned a new service-learning course in the undergraduate curriculum called “Community Engagement in Astronomy” for the Fall 2020 semester. However, between the initial announcement of the course offering (January 2020) and the actual start of the course (August 2020) the ability to conduct in-person outreach events and school programs virtually disappeared. Pivoting the course to provide meaningful experiences for the students enrolled as well as for our community partners was both challenging and immensely rewarding. This paper will highlight a few of our projects, describe lessons learned, and outline plans for the future. While we are all looking forward to a return to in-person, face-to-face outreach events, we also now recognize the value of virtual engagement as well, and hope to continue to incorporate diverse modes of outreach in the future.
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