Cordilleran Section - 103rd Annual Meeting (4–6 May 2007)

Paper No. 16
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM


SCHLOM, Tyanna M., Geological Sciences, California State University, Fullerton, McCarthy Hall 254, P.O. Box 6850, Fullerton, CA 92834-6850, TEASDALE, Rachel, Geological & Environmental Sciences, California State University, Chico, Box 0205, Chico, CA 95929-0205 and LIGGETT, Greg, Northern California Natural History Museum, College of Natural Sciences, CSU Chico, Box 0555, Chico, CA 95929-0555,

Although we live in a society based on science and technology, public levels of scientific literacy and interest have been in a steady and alarming decline in recent decades. Astronomy, among the oldest of the physical sciences, has emerged to become one of the most interdisciplinary and dynamic fields of study in the 21st century, and provides an effective gateway to all of the natural sciences for people of every age and level of education. In Chico, California, the Northern California Natural History Museum's (NCNHM) has joined with the Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory to sponsor a 13-week educational astronomy program entitled “A Cosmic Hike: The History and Environment of Our Universe.” The series is based on the Emmy award winning PBS series “Astronomy: Observations and Theories,” which was designed as a telecourse for colleges, and periodic guest lecturers of national and international eminence. Every Thursday evening series writer and producer Kris Koenig welcomes a diverse audience of approximately 300—including community members, grade school students, college undergraduates, and retirees—who watch two installments of the course, covering a survey of astronomy in its historical, observational, planetary, stellar and galactic fields of study. Following each program is a public discussion with a question and answer session. In some sessions (4 in the series), the community is able to interact with distinguished scientists who visit Chico, attend on and off campus receptions, and join the series as guest speakers. The public has enthusiastically attended the programs and participated in the discussion after each program. Providing multiple opportunities for access to interesting, high quality scientific information gives the average person a greater understanding and appreciation of cutting edge research—as well as the methodology of science. Abstracts of each program are generated as part of this work, and will be made accessible to the public on the NCNHM website. The success of the Winter 2007 Astronomy Lecture Series provides the general public access to informal science education, increasing “citizen scientists” in the community.