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2007 Summer Yerkes Institute

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Yerkes Summer Institute
August 4 - 10, 2007


Day Time Laboratories
Night Laboratories
Mapping Quotes
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2007 Yerkes Summer Institute
August 4 - 10, 2007
Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI

Theme: Mapping

Participants: 20 students; 16 instructors; and 40 parents, siblings and younger students.


Scales, coordinate systems, contour maps, and multi-wavelength astronomy are just a few of the concepts that the Space Explorers delved into during the KICP Yerkes Summer Institute (YSI) under the overarching theme of "Mapping." YSI is a week-long, residential, science immersion experience for inner-city middle and high school students held at the historic Yerkes Observatory. A team that includes researchers from the University of Chicago, public school science teachers, and staff from the Office of Special Programs (OSP), our community partner, staffs the institute. The combination of pedagogical expertise, scientific expertise, interested students, and large blocks of time creates a memorable experience for everyone involved.

The theme of YSI 2007, "Mapping," was inspired by the citywide Festival of Maps. Three daytime laboratories were developed for the institute to highlight different aspects of cartography. Mapping the Invisible investigated how astronomers use "invisible" colors such as infrared light to map and understand star-forming regions. Mapping the Yerkes Grounds involved students creating their own maps and testing their accuracy with a scavenger hunt. Projections explored elevation profiles and contour maps. The three nighttime laboratories: Mapping Nebulae in Multiple Wavelengths, Constellations, Determining the Structures of Galaxies, although somewhat dampened by rain this year, were also developed to fit the mapping theme (more detailed descriptions below, along with photos and pdf files of the student handouts).

The extended format of YSI allows for in-depth investigations, time for reflection, and opportunities to go beyond the basics. The first three days of the institute were devoted to cycling all the students through the day labs, and nighttime activities as the weather permitted. The students were divided into three small groups named after NASA space probes: Voyagers, Pioneers & Mariners. These groups rotated through the daytime laboratories on Sunday, Monday & Tuesday, devoting a full day to each experiment. During the second half of the week, the students were re-divided into three different "mixed-up" groups, each of which specialized in one of the daytime laboratories. The mixed-up groups dug deeper with extension exercises and presentations to their peers and parents.

In addition to the scientific investigations, activities designed to improve communication skills were integrated into the institute this year. Writing was worked on via laboratory notebooks in which the students documented their experiments and wrote summaries of each lab, and through specific writing assignments. These writing exercises included short essays based on each daytime laboratory and on fictional treatments of maps and mapping. Student work was reviewed and critiqued each day as well as during special writing sessions in the second half of the institute. Verbal skills were honed with peer-to-peer communication activities, public speaking exercises, and from the experience of making presentations to parents and other visitors. In addition to cultivating valuable communication skills, these activities also helped to better cement the key ideas and concepts of the institute.

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Introduction to Mapping (PDF format)
Institute Schedule & Background (PDF format)


Matt BaylissCharles BrassRobert Friedman
Walter GlogowskiNick HalmagyiSarah Hansen
Vivian HoetteZosia KrusbergRandy Landsberg
Chaz ShapiroReid ShermanIvo Seitenzahl
Chris ThomAurora TyagiPhil Wisecup
Benjamin White  

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Day Time Laboratories

Mapping the Invisible

Instructors: Matt Bayliss, Chaz Shapiro, & Walter Glogowski

What if you made a map of your neighborhood, but you left out everything that was red? Your map would be missing important things like fire hydrants, stop signs, brick buildings, and red houses. Astronomers make maps using many colors - including colors that we can't even see - because they do not want to leave important things out. Different colors provide us with different information. In this lab, you will investigate how cameras can "see" invisible colors such as infrared and ultraviolet (i.e., map the invisible). What do familiar things look like when viewed in these invisible colors? We'll find out! We will construct and examine maps made in both visible and invisible colors. These maps will not be of distant stars but of the smiling faces of you and your peers.

Photo Gallery
Mapping the Invisible (Daytime Laboratory) (PDF format)

Mapping the Yerkes Grounds

Instructors: Chris Thom, Robert Friedman, Nick Halmagyi, & Zosia Krusberg

Maps are everywhere in our lives. They are ubiquitous and crucial tools. A well-constructed map helps us find our way downtown, to an El stop, across the country, or even to a star in the sky. But what goes into making a map? What makes a map useful? And how easy is it to construct a map? In this lab, you will find out! Using a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and a sheet of paper, you will make a map of the Yerkes grounds. How big will you need to make it? What will you include on your map? And how will you hold it (e.g., which way is up)? These are all decisions you will have to make. But make them carefully, because when you're done you will be using your map in a scavenger hunt, looking for secret markers. The team that collects the most markers will win a prize!

Photo Gallery
Mapping the Yerkes Grounds (PDF format)


Instructors: Reid Sherman, Ivo Seitenzahl, Auroa Tyagi, & Sarah Hansen

Do you have trouble drawing 3-dimensional objects on flat paper? Map-makers often run into the problem of having much more information than can be shown in a simple flat drawing. We will show you how to pack the most punch onto your maps by projecting a 3rd dimension. We will also give you the tools you need to become an explorer.

Photo Gallery
Projections (PDF format)

Writing and Literature Labs

You will be participating in a series of exercises over the week of the Yerkes Summer Institute. Each day your lab notebook will be reviewed and commented upon. This activity is intended both to "keep you honest" and to offer suggestions about how you might better organize your thoughts. Secondly, during the first half of the week, at the end of each day you will be asked to write a short essay in response to a "Big Question" arising out of that day's lab. We will use these sessions as an opportunity to expand your scientific vocabulary by building up a working list of science terminology you should use in your own writing. Finally, during the second half of the week, we will come together for a series of short meetings in which we will read and discuss some fictional treatments of maps and mapping. These meetings will provide us with an opportunity to consider some of the underlying assumptions and conceptual background to maps and mapping that might not become immediately apparent in the actual process of mapping itself.

Writing and Literature Labs (PDF format)

Night Laboratories

Mapping Nebulae in Multiple Wavelengths

Instructors: Matt Bayliss

The Mapping the Invisible daytime lab explored ways that astronomers map the skies using "invisible" light in addition to the light that our eyes can see. Now - weather permitting - you will have the opportunity to play the role of the astronomer and take real data at several different wavelengths of light in order to map a small part of the night sky. Using the Yerkes 24 inch diameter telescope, a CCD camera, and a set of scientific filters, you will record images of the sky above Yerkes Observatory. We will use this fresh data to construct our own multi-wavelength map of one patch of the night sky.

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Instructors: Ivo Seitenzahl & Zosia Krusberg

The stars and the patterns they make in the sky have been used since humankind's earliest history to help us navigate. In this lab you will learn to recognize these natural maps. You will also hear a few of the many ancient stories and myths based on these figures in the sky. Finally we will explore why the night sky looks different at different times of the year and how it changes over the course of the evening. Are the stars moving or are we?

Photo Gallery

Determining the Structures of Galaxies

Instructor: Walter Glogowski

Not everything looks the same from every angle or point of view. In this lab we will explore the power of a change of perspective and use that to help us reveal the shape of a galaxy - or at least a model galaxy. You will never think of Christmas trees in the same way after this lab.

Photo Gallery
Determining the Structure of Galaxies (PDF format)

Mapping Quotes

"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing."
- Oscar Wilde

"In thy face I see
The map of honor, truth, and loyalty."

- William Shakespeare (1564-1616, British dramatist, poet. King Henry, in Henry VI, Part 2, act 3, sc. 1, l. 202-3)

"He had brought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.
"What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?"
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
"They are merely conventional signs!
Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we've got our brave Captain to thank"
(So the crew would protest) "that he's bought us the best -
A perfect and absolute blank!"

- Lewis Carroll [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]
The Hunting of the Snark, Fit the Second, Macmillan (1876)


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UChicago Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
Enrico Fermi Institute

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Last update: March 13, 2008