Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Call to Action – Help Jumpstart the U.S. Astronomy Olympiad!

Each year, high-school students from 28 countries participate in the International Astronomy Olympiads. Sadly, the U.S. is not represented.

One of my online astronomy students (an amazing high-schooler!) was looking for a way to continue pursuing her passion for astronomy after the end of our course. She came across this amazing opportunity, only to have her hopes dashed when she learned that the U.S. doesn’t hold Astronomy Olympiads… yet!

Do you think the American Astronomical Society should be helping to inspire the next generation by supporting this opportunity? Would you be interested in being an AO coach? Do you know of a high school that would be interested in being an AO host site? 

According to the rules, the first step is to create a National Astronomy Olympiad committee, hosted by the American Astronomical Society, the Academy of Sciences, a teachers association, university, or ‘other competent body’. 

You may be familiar with Science Olympiads. Science teachers started the Science Olympiads 29 years ago through a grassroots campaign. Now tens of thousands of kids participate each year (including me, back in the day, when I was falling in love with astronomy). The Science Olympiads are a great way to bring science to life, emphasize the problem solving aspects of science, and help kids make connections with other kids who love science.
Kids participate in local, regional, national, and internationals tournaments. The events are designed to use a variety of intellectual and practical skills. Some events require a quick recall of information. In others, kids brainstorm a solution and build their own apparatus. Throughout, participants are building their teamwork and science communication skills. 

Within the Science Olympiads is an Astronomy specialization. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics plays a major role in supporting this. For those who are interested, check out sample astronomy questions from past tournaments and the Science Olympiad Astronomy Coaches manual on CD.