|Stars, planets, the space station, a space craft, and a meteor's quick streak of light often are visible over backyards and parking lots
|HOLD METEORITES FROM THE MOON AND MARS
FREE WORKSHOPS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC LIBRARIES
People have far more in common than any differences we may perceive (real or imagined). My community service
educational work supports that understanding by not discriminating against anyone on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity,
race, color, language, handicaps, socioeconomic situation, housing status, genetics, gender, sexual orientation, age,
appearance, religion, marital status, physical and mental health, veteran classification, intelligence, politics, or anything
else; all persons are accepted as fellow human beings, and I support the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
enabling equal access to excellence in education. http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm
If you're new to my website, I designed it as one web page using Microsoft Office Student and Teacher Edition, plus
Yahoo SiteBuilder, so that you can download it quickly (without needing a lot of RAM) and navigate easily through
photographs and text (displayed for online reading against a subdued plain background and centered with wide margins
on desktop and laptop computer monitors).
The Space Rocks project is described first, 1. ASTRONOMY THAT FALLS FROM THE SKY, then there's a litany
of links in 2. SUBJECT-RELATED EDUCATIONAL WEBSITES, lastly 3. SPACE ROCKS WORKSHOPS
provides an overview and how to apply; after all that is a brief blurb about me.
Space Rocks workshops are free to public schools and public libraries; no academic, government, business,
religious, political, or private funding is requested; instead, please consider helping hungry and homeless people
by supporting the Amos House soup kitchen and shelters in Rhode Island www.AmosHouse.com
|ASTRONOMY THAT FALLS FROM THE SKY
A ROCK TOUR WITH REAL ROCKS
Since 1987, the Space Rocks project has followed a traditional New England public school calendar so that workshops
are usually scheduled for September through May. 'Rock tour' presentations are mostly in Connecticut, Rhode Island
and Massachusetts; sites farther away require special advanced travel arrangements. Applications are now being
accepted for the spring semester 2013, fall 2013, spring 2014, fall 2014, and spring 2015.
It's been encouraging to work with thousands of enthusiastic interested and interesting students, teachers, members
of Civil Air Patrol and other educational organizations from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New
Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont as we've studied together during Space Rocks workshops.
PIECES OF OUR SOLAR SYSTEM
The solar system has been likened to a pinball machine because some of its objects 'bump' into each other.
These 'impacts' may cause moving rocks in space to change course (similar to the equal and opposite reactions
of the ricocheting ball in the machine), however unlike the game's steel ball, and depending upon the angle and
force of impact, pieces of rocky planets, moons, asteroids, and meteoroids may 'bounce' off in different
directions, some eventually reaching Earth and other celestial bodies as meteorites. Most meteorites come
from asteroids and as a brief introduction to those almost uncountable rocks that never formed into a planet
during the formation of our solar system, you can watch Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson's PBS NOVA Science Now
video at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3313/01.html, either in your classroom, or as homework.
Public libraries often have available asteroid and meteorite videos to borrow as well as online computers to use
in the library for Internet research (plus all those books on the shelves and from interlibrary loan!).
We introduce and explore meteorite science and history to encourage active student interest in all learning and
developing effective study skills while staying in school through graduation in order to become well-informed
responsible citizens. Pieces of our solar system, older than the oldest Earth rocks (over 4 billion years old) are
brought into mostly urban elementary schools so that students can hold in their hands, for 'up-close and
personal' examination, specimens of: our Moon, the planet Mars, a comet nucleus, asteroids, and some tiny
chondrules (the first solid matter to accrete from the Sun's primordial solar nebula of gas and dust). One
meteorite even contains interstellar grains (stardust) blasted into space by the supernova explosion of another
star (in our galaxy) that lived and died far away and long ago before the Sun formed. Impact iridium sediment,
from an asteroid hitting the Earth 65 million years ago, and Triceratops fossils (among the last dinosaur species
at the time of that massive impact), are included.
Classroom workshops are adapted to each teacher's established curriculum and instruction plus school
schedules. Although inner-city intermediate elementary classes are my educational priority, presentations are
also planned for middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities, plus after-school programs, libraries,
museums, observatories, planetariums, astronomy organizations, education conferences, space camps, and
other centers of lifelong learning.
Local media coverage informs the public about your experiences with rare rocks from space. A group-developed
written report, including photographs of involved students (with permission forms signed by parents or legal
guardians), can be published on a school or library website for educationally sharing with others throughout the
World Wide Web.
Inquiry science (especially meteoritics), always a work in progress because it involves so many interrelated
researchable variables, requires continual updating to include the newest knowledge and to refine meaningful
questions; this project is no exception, therefore, informed discussion of all thinking from every perspective is
respected so together we can consider what we know, as well as what we don't know, and learn from both.
The 18 meteoritic specimens pictured and described in detail below, Triceratops fossils, a Triceratops model, a
chalcopyrite Earth rock, magnifying glass and lab magnet, instructional display pictures (for bulletin boards),
study handouts, plus color printed certificates of participation are all provided at no cost to students, teachers, or
schools and publicly-supported free libraries open to everyone.
|THE BEST-PRESERVED MAJOR METEORITE IMPACT CRATER ON EARTH
These are two of my photographs at "Meteor Crater" near Winslow, Arizona. The aerial shot was taken looking through
the cockpit glass of our plane circling low and slow above the crater with commercial and United States Air Force
Vietnam Veteran pilot, Capt. Jim Cook, DFC. I was glad that my friend in the left seat has over twenty-thousand flying
hours, because strong thermals rising off the high desert below us caused our aircraft to buck up and down hundreds of
feet demanding a lot of hands-on piloting. We continued studying the area's dynamic geology by cruising next over nearby
extinct volcanic craters (for comparison), landing on a small air strip by the trading post in Marble Canyon for lunch, and
then went on following the eventual drainage of Canyon Diablo into the Colorado River and subsequently the Grand
Canyon where we flew across that spectacular erosion.
|IDENTIFYING A "METEOR CRATER" METEORITE IN YOUR HANDS
The scan above shows 17 rare, fragile meteoritic specimens (cut small) in clear individual boxes so that they can
be displayed inside one Riker Mount for examination with a laboratory magnifying glass. These fragments, along
with the two larger rocks and dinosaur fossils, remain on educational tour throughout the year; perhaps coming
soon to a school or library near you: descriptions of the specimens that students ask about most often are
highlighted in blue.
|METEORITIC SPECIMENS RECOVERED FROM EACH OF THE 7 CONTINENTS ON EARTH
IN ONE DISPLAY SO YOU CAN HOLD THEM ALL TOGETHER FOR CAREFUL COMPARISON
(Top row, left to right): Peekskill, USA: stone meteorite that crashed right through a teenager's parked car while she was
in the house watching television; Bjurbole, Finland: stone meteorite chondrules, our solar system's oldest solid matter
(average diameter 1 millimeter), accreted from the immense cloud of gas and dust which surrounded the newly-shining
Sun and from which the planets formed; Abee, Canada: stone meteorite that research indicates may have formed within
the orbit of the planet Mercury; Allende, Mexico: stone meteorite containing interstellar grains (stardust) from the
explosion of another star before our Sun was formed; Murchison, Australia: stone that tests as being from a comet
nucleus, predates our solar system and has remained virtually unchanged since, contains elements that formed in
different types of other stars, in addition to amino acids unknown on Earth.
(Middle row, left to right): Millbillillie, Australia: stone knocked off the asteroid Vesta (NASA's Dawn spacecraft is 'right
now' orbiting this 326-mile-wide asteroid that is smaller than the state of Arizona); Zagami, Nigeria: stone knocked off the
planet Mars; Dar Al Gani 262, Libya: stone knocked out of our Moon's highlands; Northwest Africa 032, Morocco: stone
knocked from the Moon's mare; Northwest Africa 482, Algeria: stone knocked off the Moon's far side; Thiel Mountains,
Antarctica: stony-iron meteorite found on glacier ice (easy to see against that white surface); K-T Boundary iridium metal
sediment from an asteroid impact at the extinction of Earth's dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
(Bottom row, left to right): Imilac, Chile, stony-iron meteorite found in the Atacama desert (easy to see on the dry ground);
Moldavite, Czechoslovakia: tektite Earth impact glassy material blasted up into space; Canyon Diablo, USA: Earth rock
flour pulverized by meteorite impact; Siberia, Russia: metal raindrop from the Tunguska Event explosion high up in the
air; Siberia, Russia: tree bark off one of the millions of Siberian Spruce trees knocked down by the Tunguska Event.
|MORE SPACE ROCKS ARE AT BROWN UNIVERSITY
|42 more space rocks (not touring area schools), in this study collection of 60, are at the NASA
Northeast Regional Planetary Data Center on the second floor of Lincoln Field Building, main campus,
Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. SpaceRocksWithDrLen.com donations to the university
also include a piece of alloy from a space-flown Soviet Soyuz cosmonaut spacecraft; fragment of the
first U.S. space station, Skylab; tomato seeds exposed to nearly six years of space radiation in
NASA's LDEF satellite; polystyrene spheres manufactured by astronauts aboard Space Shuttle
Challenger; and a Triceratops bone fossil (one of the last dinosaur species at the Cretaceous-Tertiary
mass extinction). NASA resources to study the entire solar system are maintained here for teachers
and students. http://www.geo.brown.edu/BrownNASADataCenter/Home.htm
65 million years ago, an asteroid, approximately six miles in diameter, hit Earth at an estimated speed of
50,000 to 100,000 miles an hour (as dramatically illustrated in this painting by artist for NASA: Don Davis).
Scientists are still researching the details of what happened and the time frame over which they happened,
but geologic evidence indicates that a combination of natural effects killed off two-thirds to three-quarters of
all plants and animals, including the dinosaurs; school-bus-size Triceratops was one of the last dinosaur
species. Our planet vibrated like a bell being rung from impact shock waves that passed all the way
around the Earth and possibly even through it, superheated debris was thrown miles above the world and
then rained back down making the sky glow red hot while the air became fouled with poisonous gases and
acid mist, Earthquakes shook the ground and volcanoes erupted. A tsunami hundreds of feet high and
moving at hundreds of miles an hour, splashed over a huge area of North, Central, and South America.
The global climate was changed drastically, with temperatures at first becoming hotter, then dropping to
freezing from the ensuing day-and-night blackness of an "impact winter". Sunlight was blocked out
completely for months, until the thick haze and dust gradually settled to the surface. A specimen in the
Space Rocks study collection is iridium sediment (a rare metal element on Earth, but common in
meteorites) carried by the weather after this impact and deposited worldwide at the K-T Boundary layer in
the ground. The ancient impact site is the Chicxulub Crater, five miles deep and over 100 miles wide;
mostly under sea and sediment, partially overlapping land on the northwest tip of what is now the Yucatan
Peninsula in Mexico.
|THE LAST OF THE DINOSAURS
In this photograph are fossilized Triceratops fragments (Clockwise from top: tooth, rib bone, frill)
dug up by paleontologists during fieldwork in Wyoming and Montana. These pieces are displayed
in a Riker Mount so that students can hold specimens from one of the last dinosaur species on
Earth without the jagged edges crumbling and to avoid getting stone grit in their mouths or eyes.
At 7:17 A. M., June 30, 1908, above the Tunguska River in a remote area of Siberia, Russia, an
aerial explosion flattened 800 square miles of forest below, leaving 80 million trees on the
ground in a radial pattern pointing out from the center of the downward blast. This was followed
by a firestorm while black molten metal rain fell. (The old photograph above, is from Leonid
Kulik's early expeditions to the site.) There's still some debate about what happened, despite
local first-hand accounts, but it's most probable that a rock from space approximately 120 feet
across, weighing 200 million pounds, travelling at over 33,000 miles an hour, plunged into
Earth's atmosphere. At about 28,000 feet altitude, the extreme heat (44,000 degrees
Fahrenheit) of atmospheric compression caused the rock to fragment and mostly vaporize,
producing a spectacular fireball in the sky. The Space Rocks collection includes one of the
metal rain drops and a piece of bark from a spruce tree knocked down by the Tunguska Event.
|SUBJECT-RELATED EDUCATIONAL SITES
Over 400 years ago Galileo Galilei first turned his telescope toward the night sky in 1609; both
professionals and amateurs are still doing that today and some offer public viewing times.
|NASA HAS BEEN OUT IN SPACE FOR OVER 50 YEARS
|Федеральное космическое агентство
|SOME STUDENT AND TEACHER SPACE ACTIVITIES
|NASA's Dawn spacecraft is now in orbit around Vesta in the Asteroid Belt, 2011
|NASA DAWN mission, 2007-2015: In the photographs above, the Dawn spacecraft, atop a Delta II Heavy
launch vehicle, arched across the blue morning sky from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on
September 27, 2007, as it headed for the blackness of space and its first stop around the asteroid Vesta
to study the formation history of our solar system. One meteorite specimen in the Space Rocks study
collection is a small piece of Vesta that was knocked off into space. Many students and teachers are
following Dawn's eight-year, 3.2-billion-mile mission to the heart of the Asteroid Belt (where most
meteorites originate), because asteroids contain matter that is virtually unchanged since our solar
system was forming, (and partly because during preparations in 2006, we were given the opportunity to
have our individual names put in the spacecraft). Dawn, carrying our names, is the first space voyager to
attempt orbits around two different bodies in space: first at the brightest asteroid, Vesta, having arrived
July 15 PDT, 2011 (and at the largest asteroid, Ceres, in 2015). http://www.dawn-mission.org/index.asp
OUR NAMES ON MARS: NASA's Phoenix spacecraft traveled 422 million miles through space following
its launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a Delta II rocket, August 4, 2007, and reached
Mars, May 25, 2008. This mission is special to me because: Phoenix touched down in the north polar
region on Mars and I've been in the ice of the north polar region on Earth, a specimen in the Space Rocks
tour collection is a Martian meteorite, plus NASA had already recorded our names (Marguerite & Dr. Len)
on board so, sort of vicariously, two retired school teachers have gotten to Mars.
NASA STARDUST@home: 2006-2007, many of us in education helped U.C. Berkely and NASA Johnson
Space Center scientists identify interstellar dust grains, from faraway stars, by conducting millions of
visual examinations of digital images using online microscope technology and personal computers at
home or in school. This star dust (largest particle size only a few microns) speeding through space at
over 56,000 mph impacted collector tiles on the NASA Stardust spacecraft and was captured in aerogel.
The mission's Delta II launch vehicle lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, February 7,
1999, and traveled for 7 years and nearly 2 billion miles across our solar system before its return capsule
was recovered back on Earth, January 15, 2006.
STARSHINE satellites: From 1998 to 2001, I worked with students grinding and polishing metal mirrors
for three Project Starshine satellites: Starshine I was deployed by STS-96 Space Shuttle Discovery
astronauts in 1999, Starshine 2 was deployed by STS-108 Space Shuttle Endeavour astronauts in 2001,
and Starshine 3 was sent into a polar orbit on board an Athena I, the first launch by NASA from Kodiak
Island, Alaska, in 2001.
PROJECT COMET CHASER: My Civil Air Patrol Lt. Colonel duties have included (among many other
educational, airshow, and flying opportunities), being Liaison Officer for the RIASEC Viper Dart rocket
launch (the first to space from Rhode Island) carrying a school-made experiment into the annual Leonid
Meteor Shower. 3,000 students and teachers participated rather 'briskly' in this 1999 Aviation and Space
Education Day outdoors in mid November near the ocean.
NASA SEEDS in space: The 1990 SEEDS experiments provided us opportunities for growing (but not
eating) tomato plants in our classrooms on Earth from seeds exposed to radiation while orbiting in space
aboard NASA's LDEF satellite. LDEF was deployed in 1984 by STS-41C Space Shuttle Challenger
astronauts at an altitude of 275 nautical miles and remained in space for 5.7 years completing 32,422
Earth orbits. LDEF was retrieved in 1990 by STS-32 Space Shuttle Columbia astronauts after the
satellite's orbit had gradually decayed to 175 nautical miles. (Years after, both the Challenger and
Columbia orbiters, with all astronauts then on board, were lost during other missions.)
|SOME SELECTED BOOKS AND PERIODICALS
|Listed first are a few introductory astronomy and meteorite books; we don't need math or physics
backgrounds to read them. These are often available in your school library, public libraries, or
through interlibrary loan systems. If you like to highlight and underline, as I do, you can buy them in
paperback (new or used) at local and online bookstores. This will save you money and also save
you from librarian angst because you won't be writing in a borrowed copy. (Always look for the very
latest edition, as new scientific learning is added during revisions.)
Astronomy: A Beginners Guide to the Universe by Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan; Prentice Hall,
Upper Saddle River, N.J.: http://wps.prenhall.com/esm_chaisson_BG4/1,7633,695393,.html
Meteorites by Robert Hutchison & Andrew Graham. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. New York, N.Y.
Rocks From Space: Meteorites and Meteorite Hunters by O. Richard Norton. Mountain Press
Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana.
Sky & Telescope Observer's Guides: Meteors by Neil Bone; Series Editor, Leif J. Robinson. Sky
Publishing Corporation, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The astronomy periodicals, listed next, contain splendid color photographs and, as with the books
above, don't require a math and physics background. They are usually available in public libraries
and bookstores or by subscription. You may also find them in your school's library or through
Astronomy magazine: www.astronomy.com
Sky & Telescope magazine: http://skyandtelescope.com
|Comet Hale-Bopp observed from Earth: NASA
|SOME OF MY FAVORITE SCIENCE EDUCATORS
|Dr. Stephen Hawking: Professor Hawking writes both technical and popular books about science and has
a worldwide following. I went to meet him, before an evening lecture in 1999, as I admire his intellect. I
came away from our meeting inspired by his humanity because, during that day, he'd been visiting patients
in Boston Children's Hospital, as a role model for not giving up. His website at Cambridge University is:
Dr. Carl Sagan: The late Professor Sagan actively shared his diverse interests with the general public, as
well as with his students at Cornell University. I enjoyed reading his books, watching him on television,
and found such energy in his enthusiasm for education. In the middle of his 1980 Cosmos T.V. series on
PBS, I wrote to him; he was kind enough to reply with a detailed letter. In the following quotation, he calls
our attention, scientifically, to the fact that human beings have more in common than any differences:
"Every person on Earth shares 99.9 percent of the same DNA sequences." The memorial website
devoted to his multifaceted work is: http://www.carlsagan.com/
Dr. Eric Chaisson: Professor Chaisson's best-selling astronomy textbook (listed above) is available in an
edition for math and physics students and an edition for the general reader. To conclude a 1982 guest
lecture that I attended, he took questions from the audience. I felt self-conscious, as an education major,
because I worried that students majoring in science, and their faculty, might find my question rather
pedestrian, so I made it as scientifically succinct as possible. Not only did he respond to my query about
the nature of the universe, but first he honored me by explaining my question to everyone else. His website
at Tufts University is: www.tufts.edu/as/wright_center/eric/ericpage.html
Lately, I've been trying to follow the work of particle physicists Dr. Lisa Randall and Dr. Brian Cox at CERN,
as they seek to explain the universe in detail.
|CIVIL AIR PATROL VOLUNTEER SERVICE LEARNING
|My air-to-air photograph of a Rhode Island Wing T-41; that close!
|"Citizens Serving Communities." In the U.S. Civil Air Patrol you can study aerospace
education, plus actively participate in search and rescue, disaster relief, homeland security,
and humanitarian missions, as well as other aviation-related activities. For more
information log onto the National Headquarters website at: www.gocivilairpatrol.com We
are the men and women of the volunteer civilian United States Air Force Auxiliary where you
serve locally, fly free, and get a new view of your home state. No matter where you are in
this country, there's a wing or squadron (and you don't have to be a pilot to join).
Also, check out the Teacher Orientation Program and our Cadet Program offering youth,
ages 12 to 18, a healthy lifestyle of "better things to do than drugs" and the chance to be
positive role models for young children. Civil Air Patrol: "Above and Beyond."
|INTERDISCIPLINARY SPACE ROCKS WORKSHOPS
WE PLAN TOGETHER
All educators need to do in preparation is to click this link and read the introduction file so you can determine
how extensively an adaptable Space Rocks workshop will integrate into your established standards-driven
curriculum and instruction. Your students should subsequently read the same file before the workshop.
Introduction to Space Rocks PDF
Traditional lesson/unit plans are adapted into a concise hands-on, minds-on sequence of I. PREPARATION,
II. PRESENTATION, and III. CONTINUATION to enhance guided learning processes, which can consider
our whole world and its place in the ever-changing universe, through SCIENCE: All meteorites are rocks
knocked off other planetary bodies out in space and eventually falling to Earth where we can examine them
directly for scientific evidence about the formation and history of planets, moons, asteroids, meteoroids, and
comets that orbit our Sun (an average star and the closest to us in the Milky Way galaxy). In addition to
space rocks that may impact Earth again, people affect Earth's condition every single day. We are fortunate
to live on Earth, the only planet in this solar system's Goldilocks Zone which is 'just right'. Let's think of
ways that each of us can help care for our home planet? MATH: We use ordinary numbers regularly in
school and in our daily lives, but to study outer space we must use huge numbers to calculate extraordinary
distances spanning trillions of miles, ages in billions of years, and hypersonic speeds in many thousands of
miles an hour. SOCIAL STUDIES: Where (or what) in the world has a space rock hit in the past? You can
locate known sites on an Earth globe or wall map, study the area's geography, and look for an impact crater.
History, culture (especially women's equality), schooling, government and current events of the local
country's people may be compared with the United States to better understand our world's diversity.
ART: Reviewing representations of famous meteors and meteorites through photographs, films, videos, and
paintings, can inspire us to create our own interpretations. LANGUAGE: We all apply reading and writing
skills when we conduct research using libraries or the Internet (carefully checking and citing multiple
scholarly sources), reflect on our ideas, and orally explain our reasoning.
Students are encouraged to save copies of all class work, homework assignments, and activity photographs
for their individual portfolios. To demonstrate what we've learned together, pupils can choose examples of
their best efforts and through critical thinking discuss as a group how selections represent understanding. A
class-produced reference portfolio, for your school's library, would feature these selected learning artifacts.
Sharing with our families what we've studied, may encourage positive interaction between our home and our
school, as well as meaningful conversation if we turn off the television and radio.
APPLYING FOR A SPACE ROCKS WORKSHOP IN YOUR CLASSROOM
Once you've read through this web page, considered your school or library schedule and how you'd like to
include a Space Rocks workshop, request an application by clicking this link: DrLen@Ymail.com and I'll
e-mail an interactive form (in Microsoft Word) for you to submit. That way we get to test online
communication between our computers, necessary for sending files of text and photographs. To get ready,
all participants should read my Introduction to Space Rocks (click link above under We Plan Together)..
HANDOUTS FOR YOUR STUDENTS
All the handouts that I write, along with this web page, are in the public domain and not copyrighted;
teachers and students may copy them for educational use without written permission, but other websites and
names should be credited. Space Rocks handouts are e-mailed to your computer for printing and studying by
everyone there who is preparing to participate in the Space Rocks workshop, as well as for review and
further study. If your computer does not have Adobe Acrobat Reader for PDF files, you can download that
software for free right here by clicking: www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html
|Close-up of our Moon by the Apollo 17 astronauts: NASA
ABOUT ME ( I want to know why I want to know.)
My best teachers over the years (some with dogged determination), taught me how to learn; I didn't always
appreciate it immediately, but would eventually. I began Kindergarten as a timid student and reluctantly
trudged through 13 years of public school. After serving honorably on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard
(International Ice Patrol; once right over the Titanic sinking site), I was eligible for educational funding of
veterans under the G. I. Bill, but what college would ever want 'me'? Fortunately, my home state of Rhode
Island had just opened a new community college where an apparently adventurous administrator actually
accepted me into the world of higher education; little did she know how long I'd stay in that world.
As the first person in my family to go to college and only the second one fortunate enough to even graduate
from high school (just barely), I was in an exciting new environment. However, if it weren't for financial
assistance in the forms of a scholarship, fellowship, tuition waivers, several graduate assistantships, on-
campus employment, off-campus employment, United States government-guaranteed loans, and that G. I.
Bill which started it all, I'd have been another in our long familial line of mill workers (men and women
who, after work, read books from their local public libraries).
I absolutely loved my 23 years as a full-time and part-time college student earning an A.A. at the
Community College of Rhode Island (where I first started to learn how to learn), B.A., B.S., and M.A.T.
degrees from Rhode Island College, plus a University of Connecticut Ph.D. in education, reinforced by
some national honor societies, encouragement from my wife (a school teacher for 31 years), and our
children. In addition, I became a Lt. Colonel in Civil Air Patrol aerospace education and in my spare time
planned tours of Civil War historic sites around the country and made Zen rock gardens.
With a doctorate in my pocket, I felt free to study any subject on my own, partly because I chose to, but
more importantly because I knew how to. At last, I appreciated having been taught 'how to learn' by my
best teachers along the way. In addition, one of my own graduate students pointed out (tactfully) that by
then I had more letters 'after' my name than there are 'in' my name.
Everything interests me, so I considered every possibility in developing a community service postdoctoral
project through which I could continue studying indefinitely and at the same time ‘give back’ by
encouraging public school students to enjoy learning. I'd always found astrophysics and space exploration
fascinating; going into space was science fiction when I was a kid, but during the years I'd been in school
it had moved to the forefront of active science, so I launched (metaphorically, albeit enthusiastically) into
study of those pieces of our solar system that I could actually get at because they fall from the sky. With
the generous assistance of two international meteorite specialists, I was able to purchase, one by one, a
comprehensive collection of sixty small-size meteoritic specimens to examine and hand around to students
during school workshops. Of course, I couldn't study meteorites very long without exploring
(metaphorically again) asteroids, comets, planets, moons, dust, impacts and DINOSAURS!
At the same time as I was hitting the books (the last clichéd-metaphor; I wouldn't really hit a book because
I like them so much), I earned an FCC license to produce and host my own public radio interview talk
shows and classical music programs for four years, worked for six years as a photographer and was a
Student Teaching Supervisor, Cooperating Teacher, Visiting Lecturer and Adjunct Professor in education at
a college and two universities in three states for over twenty years.
I always enjoyed being on rather 'cloistered' self-contained campuses (both as a student and as an
instructor) because I could put my car in a parking lot and then walk everywhere all day and evening. I
lost track of how many buildings I’d studied in, but at times I was teaching in eight different buildings. I
also liked the changes each semester brought. However, I found teaching college to be not nearly as
intellectually stimulating as being a college student; sometimes professors spent more time on meetings and
committees than on teaching (one school even had a faculty “Committee on Committees”). In addition I
never did get a feel for the continual re-shuffling of faculty offices that goes on (bigger size, more
windows, better view, etc.); like fiddling with a Rubik’s Cube. One day I was even greeted by our dean, in
the hallway, who said that he’d been looking for me, "Where's your office?", he asked. I told him I didn't
have one because then people would be able to find me. We conferred in the hallway, after which he went
back to his office; I headed for the classroom and my students.
Now, as a volunteer educator, I bring space rocks and dinosaur fossils to schools, libraries and other
centers of lifelong learning so that we can study them together. Additionally, I share some social
comments about living.
-We can all learn much more at our public library; in the United States, knowledge is free for everyone.
-We are responsible for what we do, and sometimes for what we fail to do.
-Only a fool wants to hear just his own ideas repeated back to him.
-We can't use our brains on drugs; that's why it's called dope.
-Without integrity, we have no credibility.
-Hate hurts, both ways.
-We can do better.
|CLIPPINGS (L-R): Len with dinosaur friend, and perched on
the edge of "Meteor Crater" before falling over backwards.
Thank you for visiting my website. If you need a copy of my curriculum vitae
for your school files, please e-mail me and I'll send it right out. I hope to see
you in class or at a local library soon. Take care, Lt. Col. Len West, Ph.D.
Marguerite & Dr. Len present My Dog Shag read-aloud workshops in which elementary school students illustrate
free copies of their children's book to take home. They're also the authors of Tell Me About My School and wrote
the parents' foreword for Tell Me About My First Plane Trip as well as the parents' primer in Spelling Bee; all
three published by Pockets of Learning for early childhood education.
If you'd like to print out your own free e-book copy of My Dog Shag, right from your personal computer, you can
download it now by clicking: My Dog Shag PDF Oct 2011
Shown here are two bare rocks, on the ground, that students examine during a Space Rocks workshop using basic
science skills (plus our physical senses) to determine which is a space rock and which is an Earth rock. These
specimens can be easily compared by weighing them on a gram scale, lowering each into a graduated cylinder to
measure water displacement, looking at them under a magnifying glass, holding a small magnet on a string next to
them, feeling them with your hands, smelling them with your nose, and tapping them on a lab table to hear if they
sound different. (It's safer that we not use our sense of taste for checking out unfamiliar substances.) Extensive
ongoing research estimates that "Meteor Crater" was formed when a huge meteoritic mass, more than 130 feet
wide, weighing over 100,000 tons, traveling through the air at more than 35 times the speed of sound, slammed into
the hard desert and violently disintegrated. (For velocity comparison, NASA's Space Shuttles flew at Mach 25.) The
meteorite was named after nearby Canyon Diablo and its impact site is called the Canyon Diablo Crater or Barringer
Crater by meteoriticists, but we find it on the Internet under its popular name at: http://www.meteorcrater.com/
Hubble Space Telescope photograph of Mars: NASA
Down on the ground, my picture on the right is the view across the crater, rim-to-rim. Dr. David Roddy, USGS, guided us
among the boulders ejected by meteorite impact and taught us to eat Popsicles when we got back to indoors air
conditioning, yet after hours out in the sun I looked like a French Fry and felt like a refried bean. Our field trip went well,
other than the day that I lost my footing while perched at the edge and fell over backwards protecting my camera. Despite
a bones-on-stones rib separation that I still remember in damp weather, I managed to laugh it all off (at least in front of
witnesses) until I could get to a chiropractor. Over 150 impact craters around the world have been documented so far, but
this one is the first-identified and best-preserved major impact crater on Earth; most of the others are extensively eroded
from millennia of weathering. After 49,000+/-300 years, this crater remains approximately 4,100 feet wide and 570 feet
deep, with a fine visitors center and museum right beside it for you to appreciate in person. Nearly three decades prior to
our visit, the late Dr. Roddy had trained NASA astronauts here (most of them without stumbling or fumbling a camera)
before their Apollo missions to gather geologic specimens in craters on the Moon.