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Wheeler Teacher Attends Astronomy Workshop

Sergio Corvalan is one of 43 science teachers nationwide participating in a NASA-funded program at Kennesaw State.

's Sergio Corvalan is among a select group of 43 science teachers participating in one of four NASA-funded astronomy workshops organized, in part, by a Columbus State University physics professor.

Corvalan, who teaches in Wheeler's science, math and technology magnet school, attended the June 18-22 GEARS workshop, short for Georgians Experience Astronomy Research, at Kennesaw State University's Advancing the Teaching of Mathematics and Science (ATOMS) Center.

The purpose of GEARS is to change the way astronomy is taught in Georgia high schools, said Zodiac Webster, the Columbus State professor who played a key role in obtaining the NASA grant.

"We're trying to inspire teachers to use some astronomical discoveries to teach physics and chemistry concepts," said Webster, also a workshop facilitator.

GEARS introduces high-tech astronomy tools involving NASA data that teachers can use with high school students. Moving from a textbook-based approach to a data-based approach will focus on the excitement of discoveries yet to be made, Webster said.

The GEARS workshops being held in Athens, Forsyth, Kennesaw and Savannah introduce teachers to astronomy concepts, NASA data and data analysis tools. Participating teachers learn how to retrieve data from NASA missions such as that involving the Hubble space telescope to explore such concepts as colliding galaxies.

Webster said she hopes new curriculum standards will expand the teaching of astronomy throughout Georgia high schools, noting that a major challenge has been trying to teach so much material in a one-week period.

"We're giving the teachers a fire hose approach to astronomy," Webster said "We're trying to introduce them to as many technological tools as possible so that they can bring the real data into their classrooms."

The state Department of Education received a $1.4 million grant from NASA in 2009 to form the GEARS project along with Columbus State and Georgia Southern universities.

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