Last year, Bethlehem High School science research teacher Jamie Rowe, was selected as one of less than seven teachers in the nation to take part in the 2017 NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program (NITARP), a program involving teachers in authentic astronomical research using NASA’s extensive archive of data from space- and ground-based telescopes.
Through NITARP, educators are partnered with a mentor professional astronomer for an original research project. They are then expected to incorporate that experience into their classrooms and share their experience with other teachers.
At the 2018 AAS conference, Rowe along with her fellow team mates presented the results of their work over the past year. Rowe’s team, including educators from Virginia and North Carolina made use of Spitzer Space Telescope data obtained from the entirety of the cryogenic-era – that is, from the first 5.5 years of the Spitzer mission. They looked for the most unusual and faintest IR-bright objects serendipitously detected.
From NITARP’s early years through the 2017 class, a total of 110 educators from 34 states have participated or will participate. NITARP works with educators because, through them, NITARP reaches thousands of students per year with information about how science really works, what NASA does, and the wealth of astronomy data that is freely available to the public.
When asked about the experience Rowe explained that as with any project there are many challenges to overcome, one of hers being bi-costal meetings, but nothing compared the rewards.
“As we teach longer and longer we tend to get comfortable in our subject and don’t always challenge ourselves,” said Rowe. “This was a challenge and I feel as though I have grown a lot thanks to this experience.”
Her hope is to continue the experience with students here at BC by taking part in what NITARP would call an alumni project.
“Now that I have been through the process myself I feel much more comfortable with getting students involved,” said Rowe. “With a little guidance, I think students and myself could work with other educators around the country to complete a research project of our own to present at a future AAS convention.”