Teachers encouraged to apply to receive Slooh license, professional development, and 40 student seats to bring the wonder of space to their classrooms
Washington Depot, Connecticut, August 19, 2021 – Slooh, the only organization offering live online telescope feeds of amazing astronomical events to students, is launching The Slooh Space Exploration Grant for the 2021-2022 school year. The grant is being provided with the goal of helping one million students nationwide experience the wonder of space from their classrooms and home computers.
The rolling grant will provide one teacher per every accredited public school in the United States with access to the Slooh interface, robust professional development, and student seats which will enable students to use robotic telescopes to view space phenomena, capture observational data, and engage in gamified learning.
The platform allows students to put themselves in the shoes of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered pluto in 1930, said Washington resident Michael Paolucci, 51, Slooh’s CEO and founder.
“They follow in his footsteps, making exactly the steps Clyde used with a very similar type of telescope,” he said. “They actually see Pluto suddenly appear on their screen and then they get to keep that image, which fits in a poster.”
What Is Slooh
“Students use robotic telescopes to view space phenomena, capture observational data and engage in gamified learning,” Paolucci said. "To date, the program has reached tens of millions of people."
“The big benefit is that these students get to control telescopes halfway around the world, collect real data from space, make their own imagery and then they get to manipulate that imagery,” he said. “They get to complete all of these learning activities, which are all built into the platform that teaches you how to explore space.”
Teachers receive extensive training by Slooh’s astronomy team and experienced educators to leverage the platform and guide their classrooms, with no prerequisite knowledge required. Students receive individual Slooh accounts where they can advance in ability levels through a point system. Advancing through different levels of difficulty and accumulating points moves their class up the global leaderboard, and students level up and earn badges along the way.
"Students get really excited by keeping track of the points that they earn" says educator Nicollette LeTellier. "I love to keep track of all of the posters, they are a great way to document student learning."
The 10 telescopes, which Slooh owns and operates, “are completely autonomous robotic observatories. They operate all night. They move every five minutes. It is all robotically controlled and remotely serviced,” says Paolucci. Students can watch the live telescope feed from any device, or if the timed slots run into the early hours of morning, images will be taken automatically.
A teacher from each accredited public school in the US is eligible to receive the rolling grant.
Aside from receiving training to teach their class, grant winners receive a Teacher Champion pack “with an anthology of space book, night watch cap, bracelet, and badge,” said John Boisvert, director of curriculum at Slooh. “Teacher and student accounts have access to Slooh's 10 powerful robotic telescopes at observatories in both hemispheres, the 50 STEAM-aligned ‘Quest’ learning activities, and a private club to monitor student progress and share observations. All of this is valued at over $750.”
Initially, Slooh was intended for underprivileged populations. “It’s designed for inner-city Title 1 schools — for populations where the kids have no ability to get out of the city, so they never see the stars,” Paolucci said.
With the new grant, however, teachers from schools across the state can get access to Slooh for free. “We want every school in the area, every teacher to know that if they apply for this grant, they will get it,” Paolucci said, "space is like a vast and wondrous wilderness” and Slooh is “like a national park with trails and guides.”
“So, people can come onto our platform, use these online telescopes and communicate with all these other people who know and are motivated and inspired to share everything they know about space with each other."
Slooh is supported by CT Innovations, investors and grant money from the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, and the National Science Foundation.
“Learn best by doing”
Students “learn best by doing,” said Paolucci, as opposed to just reading about something or having someone else show them.
“When you have to go figure out how to get an image of that thing for yourself, you learn things about it in the process — then you have this personalized keepsake in your memory and it locks in for you,” he said.
The uniqueness of Slooh is its sharing capacity, he added. “With Slooh, it’s the idea of getting people to cooperatively be able to control telescopes together where everyone benefits." By democratizing access to space through its interface, Slooh is making space education equitable to all.
Bill Cloutier, a director of the John. J. McCarthy Observatory in New Milford, said Slooh is advantageous in that it has multiple telescopes and offers access to the sky to those not fortunate enough to have a community observatory, telescope or dark sky site.
Additionally, Cloutier said Slooh’s flagship observatory in the Canary Islands, and another observatory in Chile, offer a number of advantages, “among them dark skies, clear nights and locations that cover much of the sky in both hemispheres.”
Cloutier added there are so many astronomical events that people miss out on with the changeable weather in New England or that are challenging with our near sea-level location — “hurdles that Slooh overcomes with high-altitude facilities and multiple locations.”
To apply, visit slooh.org. Teachers must complete a short application, including a brief response about how Slooh will support space exploration for students at their school. To learn more about Slooh, visit education.slooh.com