The Green Bank Observatory has a rare combination of assets: 1) A laboratory where frontier research is an ongoing activity; 2) a professional staff of scientists and engineers who are also heavily involved in education and outreach; 3) facilities such as the Green Bank Science Center, radio telescopes, housing and food services, all available for formal and informal educational programs. The site staff use these assets to develop and present programs that would not be possible at other institutions. Green Bank is also a partner to the local school district, offering mentoring, coursework, and educational opportunities to the local youth.
The Science Center is a multi-purpose building that draws 50,000 visitors each year, a remarkable number for so remote a location. Visitors experience the many interactive displays in a 4000 sq ft. exhibit hall, hear presentations about radio astronomy from the Science Center staff, and take a guided bus tour around the site.
The Science Center is also used for monthly star parties, an annual 4-day Star Quest gathering of amateur astronomers, the annual meeting of the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers, community days, and so on. It serves as the focus for school field trips throughout the year.
The 40-Foot telescope is a working radio telescope outfitted specifically for use by students and teachers. It is the centerpiece of a hands-on research experience offered by the Observatory staff. Each year between 2500-3000 scouts, students and teachers visit Green Bank, typically in small groups of a few dozen students with their teachers, for sessions lasting several days. They are housed in the site “bunkhouse” and take meals in the cafeteria. They receive in-depth tours of the electronics labs, training, use of the 40-Foot Telescope, and interactions with the site staff.
Throughout the year the Green Bank hosts numerous programs for teachers. The Residential Teacher Institutes provide a research experience for K-12 teachers and pre-service teachers through projects on the 40 Foot Radio Telescope under supervision of the Green Bank staff. Begun in 1987 and supported initially by the NSF and NASA, this program has trained over 1000 teachers in the fundamentals of research. Each year a Chautauqua Short Course Program for undergraduate college faculty is held to update their content knowledge. In the several dozen years of the program over 650 undergraduate faculty have participated.
Over the past 13 years the NSF-sponsored Research Experience for Teachers has matched 27 teachers from grades 7-12 with Green Bank astronomers to perform astronomical research over an 8-week summer period. All these activities involve site scientists and engineers as lecturers, advisors and mentors.
The Pulsar Search Collaboratory is a unique program in partnership with West Virginia University that enables middle and high school students to participate in active pulsar research using data from the Green Bank Telescope. In a summer residential program, high school teachers and their students work with astronomers to learn how to analyze data produced by the telescope, and then form PSC teams back at their schools. Funded by the NSF, the Collaboratory has so far engaged more than 100 teachers and roughly 1,000 students from 18 states in pulsar research. Student teams have thus far discovered 6 new pulsars and three transient object, increasing their interest in science and technology and has gained national recognition.
The 20-meter telescope, originally built by the US Naval Observatory for studies of the Earth’s rotation, is now part of Skynet, a distributed network of robotic telescope for research and education.
Numerous other programs exist on site, and a full description of current offerings can be found at https://greenbankobservatory.org/education/
Finally, The Observatory is a partner with the Pocahontas County School System, providing a vast number of services to the local schools. Support for the local school system comes two ways – through programs which are hosted by the observatory as well as through local staff participation in school activities and planning. A few of the ways staff help the local schools include
- School Board Members
- Business Partner Scholarships
- Annual donation to the PCHS Science Scholarship
- Organizer and host of primary fundraiser for the William Dilley Track Scholarship
- Serving on school and school board committees
- Levy Committee
- School Calendar committee
- 10 year planning committee
- 5 year strategic planning committee
- Superintendent’s Advisory Committee
- Local School Improvement Council (GBEMS, PCHS)
- Title IV Committee (GBEMS)
- Providing tutoring for local students as part of their in-school lessons
- Annual support and volunteers:
- GBEMS and PCHS Career Days
- Read Aloud
- Literacy Fair judges
- Socials Studies Far Judges
- Science Fair help and mentoring
- Math Tutors
- School Treasurer (MMS)
- Math Field Day
- County Math Field day is hosted at the Observatory
- GBEMS tutors
- Pocahontas County Science Fair
- Pocahontas County Science Fair is run and hosted by the Observatory
- Mentoring for all county science fair participants
- Hour of Code
- Annual hour of code with PCHS is run by the Observatory
- Science Bowl
- Judges, moderator, scorekeeper for RESA IV bowl
- High School Athletics
- Observatory staff have been coaches and assistant coaches in the past for the high school soccer, basketball, and baseball teams
- Timekeeper/Scorekeeper for PCHS athletics
- Radio Announcer for PCHS athletics