Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program: Toward the Future

Posted by Alison Klesman
on Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Atacama Desert's Valley of the Moon, seen from above. // All images: Astronomy: Alison Klesman

I’m finally on my way home to Wisconsin from Santiago, Chile, by way of a connection in Dallas/Fort Worth. Our final morning in San Pedro was spent exploring otherworldly landscapes in the Valle de la Luna (otherwise known as the Valley of the Moon), which ranged from huge, untouched sand dunes to literal pillars of salt and hills rich with sparkling gypsum. The drive back to the airport in Calama was beautiful, and our final dinner in Santiago following the flight back was full of lively discussion, touching on subjects that included our experiences in the program and how we might improve it (generally, ambassadors argued for more days to fit in all the extra activities and outreach they’d like to see happen).

Here I am, standing against the backdrop of Tres Marias - the Three Marys.

Monday morning saw the ambassadors gathered one final time in our Santiago hotel, where the topics of discussion were both the days behind us and the future to come. The group of people I’ve spent the past 10 days with has become a family, a close-knit group of people whose individual strengths, interests, and knowledge have built upon each other and brought us continually closer together. We’ve eagerly discussed ideas for outreach and education upon our return home, from the development of new astronomy and physics curricula and the design of unique planetarium shows to several scheduled talks, blogs, and written articles (including the feature story appearing in an upcoming issue of Astronomy magazine). We enjoyed one last lunch together before splitting up, one group of us (including myself) heading to the airport, while others planned to spend additional days exploring all that Santiago and the surrounding area has to offer.

The ACEAP program is a truly unique, enriching, and inspiring experience. The ambassadors are carefully chosen, and each feels honored, humbled, and excited to become a part of the ever-growing ACEAP family that spans both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The purpose of this program isn’t simply to show astronomy educators and outreach coordinators how the great American astronomical facilities in Chile function, but also to highlight the true purpose behind their existence in the first place. The heart of astronomy is the astronomers who look up at the sky and question it, and I don’t necessarily mean “astronomers” in the traditional Ph.D. sense. Everyone who has ever wondered about the sky and wanted to know more about it can be called an astronomer, and continuing to inspire individuals to cast their eyes upward is a valuable, necessary, and honorable endeavor.

The ACEAP ambassadors gathered one final time to discuss our closing thoughts and plans for future outreach.

The 2017 ACEAP team’s goal is now to further that endeavor through new projects, partnerships, and ideas. I, for one, can’t wait to see – and be a part of – the result.

Tags: aceap
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