Outreach activities

Picture of the Detroit Observatory at sunset.
The Detroit Observatory (DO), located at the University of Michigan, is a 150 year old Ann Arbor historical site. Beginning in 2014 with funds from NSF AST-1311698, collaborators and I designed and began construction of exhibits, displays, and interactive learning tools to aid in visitors' understanding of conceptually difficult astronomical methods and principles. We developed these with college-aged and older visitors in mind, as the DO is not a sufficiently large facility to accommodate visiting secondary school groups, and recent visitors have mostly been adults. The installations' design was based in present pedagogical strategies for informal learning to maximize impact, as informed by the museum studies of Kelly (2002):
  • -all information presented is based on an understanding of the target audience and their prior knowledge,
  • -displays are set up to encourage interaction and discussion among multiple viewers, taking advantage of the intrinsically social nature of museum-style learning,
  • -I facilitate discussion and interaction with the newly developed media, sharing my understanding of the science,
  • -the content displayed directly relates to a real-life experience, observing with the Fitz telescope, which visitors do in the same visit to the DO, and
  • -interactive celestial sphere domes are physically manipulable, set up in a question-and-answer style that encourages self-direction in the flow of learning.
On average, the Detroit Observatory open houses see about 700 visitors a year.
Update: After years-long planning efforts, the UM Regents voted to approve a $10m addition project so the DO can even better serve visitors! Read more about it here.