Peabody Fellows in Astronomy
NASA image of sun with solar prominence
NASA; this image captures a sweeping prominence – a huge cloud of relatively cool dense plasma suspended in the Sun's hot, thin corona.
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Solar System Investigations

A summer institute for upper elementary and middle school teachers about seasons, moon phases and the solar system


Solar System Investigations:

August 13 - 15, 2013

Download the flyer


This summer institute is FULL.  For any questions please contact


at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale

and the Yale Peabody Museum


Peabody Fellows Astronomy online forum (available to program participants)


Participants will:


  • Learn innovative ways to teach Connecticut’s 6th and 8th grade science standards
  • Learn how to use NASA data in the classroom
  • Preview cool planetarium shows about the sun and sunlight
  • Gain practical, hands-on experience with telescopes
  • Receive ongoing support from Museum and Planetarium educators


Teacher benefits:


  • FREE 3-day summer institute, including morning coffee and lunch
  • Set of standards-based classroom activities with accompanying Sun-Earth-Moon kit
  • $200 stipend after teaching and assessing the complete set of activities in your classroom
  • Free admission AND funds to cover bus transportation for two field trips during the school year to the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium and the Yale Peabody Museum
  • 2.0 CEUs from Yale University
  • Free Peabody Museum Family Membership


Peabody Fellows and Connecticut Science Framework Standards


The August 13 - 15, 2013 Peabody Fellows Solar System Investigations institute is built around the Connecticut State Department of Education’s Science Curriculum Framework Standards for Grades 6 and 8 about seasons, moon phases and the solar system. The classroom activities presented during the institute, as well as class visits to the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium and the Yale Peabody Museum, will directly support Science Curriculum Standards 6.3, 8.3.a, and 8.3.b, and corresponding CMT Correlations C9, C28 and C29.




Open to upper elementary and middle school teachers in Connecticut. Our apologies, but this summer institute is FULL.



Project and Goals


Summer Solar Science is the teacher professional development component of Solar Cycle Investigations: NASA Science Exploration for Middle School Students and Teachers, a 2011-2013 NASA-funded joint effort of the Yale Peabody Museum and the Department of Astronomy’s Leitner Family Observatory & Planetarium at Yale. The program includes teacher professional development, class field trips and the production of pre- and post-trip materials on topics associated with the Sun-Earth connection, and the Solar Cycle in particular. The program’s content is aligned with National Science Education Standards and Connecticut State Science Standards related to light, gravity, and the Solar System. Years 1 and 2 will focus on the 5th grade Connecticut Standards and years 2 and 3 will concentrate on the 6th and 8th grade Standards (two separate tracks will be offered in year 2).


The ultimate aim of Solar Cycle Investigations is to educate middle-school students about the complexities of the Sun’s influence on the Solar System and Earth in particular, and to improve their appreciation of the significance of scientific data as a critical resource for its study.


As outlined in NASA’s Living with a Star program, the origins and fate of life on Earth are intimately connected to the way Earth responds to the Sun's variations. The ways in which the Sun can change over time, and how this affects Earth, are among the most important subjects in astronomy for students to understand. Almost all of Earth’s energy comes from the Sun in one form or another, but most students have no idea of the origin of that energy, or how it actually gets from there to here. The Sun’s activity has a huge impact on Earth’s climate – for example, it is widely accepted that the lower temperatures of the “Little Ice Age” were partly due to the decreased activity of the Sun during the “Maunder Minimum” in the late 17th century.


On a shorter timescale, the 11-year Solar Cycle is an area of active research at Yale. Evidence to date (see suggests that the current Solar Cycle maximum (which should peak around 2012/2013) is unusually delayed and reduced in size. Solar scientists are trying to understand why this may be the case. Principal Investigator Sarbani Basu’s research group at Yale is using NASA resources to probe the Sun and the current Solar Cycle using the tool of helioseismology.


Informing middle school teachers and students about the Solar Cycle addresses science topics such as gravity, light, magnetic fields, seismology (including sound waves), and the effect of the Solar Cycle on Earth’s climate. It also provides the opportunity to delve more deeply into general astronomy concepts such as day and night, moon phases and technological innovations for observing the universe, including telescopes.


Approach and Methodology


This Peabody Fellows program differs from others in a few important ways. It marks the first time a program has been offered in partnership with another Yale entity – the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale. Also, the professional development component of the program is built around one or more visits with students to the Planetarium and Museum, and we have even included the funds to pay for transportation from participants’ schools to make sure this can happen!


All of the activities developed and shared during the summer institute serve as stand-alone lessons in the classroom, but they are specifically designed to provide the essential pre-learning and follow-up reinforcement necessary to fully support the Planetarium and Museum visit. For instance, when 5th grade teachers show their students the invisible field of a bar magnet using iron filings, they can explain how Earth’s magnetic field protects us from dangerous solar radiation, or that the magnetic field of the Sun flips over every 11 years, leading to the Sunspot Cycle.


The program is centered on the expected peak of solar activity in 2012/13 and uses data and images from several NASA missions. For example, the real-time images and movies from the Solar Dynamics Observer (SDO) are used in the planetarium dome to show high-resolution details of activity in the solar chromosphere. These awe-inspiring, high resolution images catch students' attention immediately and provide an opportunity to explain how the Sun's magnetic field is generated, how it is structured, and how it changes over the Solar Cycle.


Particular attention will be paid to topics where there are common misconceptions middle-school students (and occasionally teachers) have about the Earth-Sun-Moon system and related phenomena.


Faculty, Staff and Contact Information


Sarbani Basu, PhD

Principal Investigator

Professor, Department of Astronomy, Yale University



Heidi Herrick, Planetarium Instructor

Phone: (203) 530-6487


Department of Astronomy, Yale University

P.O. Box 208101

New Haven, CT 06520-8101



Armand Morgan, Senior Museum Instructor

Phone: (203) 432-3297

Fax: (203) 432-9816


Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

P.O. Box 208118

New Haven, CT 06520-8118