Subcategory: STEM Science and Mathematics Education
Prabhakar Misra - Howard University
Co-Author(s): Demetrius Venable, Belay Demoz, and Gregory Jenkins, Howard University, Washington, DC
The targeted enhancement of the undergraduate program in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Howard University has been accomplished via implementation of the following four major initiatives, namely conversion of the existing General Astronomy course into a hybrid online/laboratory class, significant upgrading of the planetarium and telescope astronomical observatory, successful implementation of both an Atmospheric Science minor and a recruitment/scholarship program and peer support/tutorial program for physics majors. Infrastructure has been considerably enhanced by the upgraded facilities in the Locke Hall Planetarium and Telescope Observatory. The new telescope in the observatory and the full-dome projector in the planetarium have helped to dramatically increase the number of impactful outreach events. A series of new planetarium shows and enriched telescope hands-on activities and student-instructor interactions have helped reinforce the learning material covered in the hybrid General Astronomy course lectures. Based on the student feedback responses to regularly conducted surveys, the knowledge base and engagement of the students taking the hybrid course have been markedly improved, and as a consequence it is anticipated that the future enrollment in the course will show a measurable increase too. Improving teaching, learning and critical retention of key concepts, by developing more effective pedagogical approaches – such as hybrid courses and hands-on activities – will better prepare STEM majors for the professional workforce. Besides STEM majors, the targeted infusion project has the potential to make the hybrid General Astronomy course offering more attractive to humanities and social science majors as well, as more fascinating planetarium shows have become available and additional outreach events are being held that utilize the enhanced telescope for observations of the Washington night sky and rare celestial events. Greater involvement of the community at-large – via increased frequency of public outreach activities – serves to enhance the image of Howard University as a civic partner by engaging the public in enriching open house events, which in turn will also help in the recruitment of additional physics majors to the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Howard University.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): Financial support from the National Science Foundation (Award No. HRD-1238383) is gratefully acknowledged.
Faculty Advisor: None Listed,