The Quality Lighting Teaching Kit: Educating the Public about the Dark Side of IYL2015

The UN-sanctioned International Year of Light in 2015 (IYL2015) is providing an opportunity to increase public awareness of dark skies preservation, quality lighting and energy conservation. The Education and Public Outreach (EPO) group at the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) has received a grant through the IAU to produce official “Quality Lighting Teaching Kits” for the IYL2015 cornerstone theme, “Cosmic Light”. These kits will emphasize the use of proper optical design in achieving quality lighting that promotes both energy efficiency and energy conservation of an endangered natural resource: our dark skies. Poor quality lighting not only impedes astronomy research, but creates safety issues, affects human circadian sensitivities, disrupts ecosystems, and wastes billions of dollars/year in energy consumption and carbon emissions.

The concepts and practices of “quality lighting” will be explored through problem-based learning (e.g., engineering design), hands-on/minds-on activities, demonstrations, and formative and summative assessment probes. The impact of the kits will be amplified by providing professional development using tutorial videos created at NOAO and conducting question and answer sessions via Google+ Hangouts for program participants. The Quality Lighting Teaching Kit will leverage ten years of work by NOAO’s EPO team in developing programs on lighting and optics education (e.g., the NSF-funded “Hands on Optics”, IAU “Dark Skies Africa” and Arizona Public Service Foundation’s “Dark Skies Yuma” programs).

NOAO’s partners are the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), International Commission on Illumination (CIE), International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), and IAU Office of Astronomy for Development, with sponsorship from the IAU and The Optical Society (OSA). Along with astronomy education centers (NUCLIO and Universe Awareness), the networks will disseminate kits to formal and informal audiences worldwide. The impact sought is a change in knowledge, attitude, and behavior in each community by learning how to light responsibly, improving the quality of life in “illuminating” ways.

Constance Walker

AUTHORS/INSTITUTIONS: C.E. Walker, S.M. Pompea, R. Levy, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, Arizona, UNITED STATES


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