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Get to know ATI's online courses: Astronomy 'is our oldest science'

This summer, ATI guide Kristina Read Tambunga will spend four nights at an observatory in Texas, looking with a reverent curiosity to the night sky.The McDonald Observatory is 80 miles away from any civilization, and even the telescopes themselves are two miles away from light. To stay at the observatory, Kristina will sleep at the astronomer’s lodge, where the blinds are always drawn and cellphone use is prohibited outdoors, so as not to interfere with the telescopes.She’s eager and grateful for the opportunity, not only to satiate her own interest and enthusiasm, but for her students. With the research she’ll curate in those four days, she plans to return to an online course she’s teaching this summer on astronomy, where together they will discuss black holes and the dark night sky paradox and how the tools we have in astronomy help to tell a story we’ve yet to complete.

“We as humans have always been fascinated with what’s out there and up there, even though we haven’t always known,” says Kristina, who teaches math and problem solving at ATI in Austin. “For this astronomy course, I’m looking for a student who is willing to look at the night sky in a different way than they are used to and someone who is really interested in exploring the potential that is out there.”

Whether they already have some knowledge of astronomy or are new to the course, Kristina says anyone “will fit just right in.” She simply wants to share her passion and her knowledge and ask questions that only leave students ever more curious.

“While the course isn’t purely Socratic, we will pose different questions each week — questions that are unanswered but researched enough we can guess, like, Is there life on other planets? If there is, why haven’t we found it yet?” Kristina says. “We’ll talk about the evidence we do have and what kind of information we need to prove this, whether there is life or there isn’t. I’ll plant the seed and give background information to the students, but when it comes to the answers, that’s up to them.”

Kristina’s teaching background is in the STEM discipline, but when she happened upon teaching an astronomy class, she couldn’t look away from the sky.

“I fell in love with the way astronomy needs this knowledge of mathematics, but there is this historical component that drives me, too, that astronomy is our oldest science,” Kristina says.

She’s also drawn to know how telescopes work, and she incorporates this knowledge into her teaching.

“We talk a lot about the tools in astronomy — where the measurements come from and how we can calculate a lot of measurements on earth,” Kristina says. “For me, I’m in interested in the way that we image space. Not all of it is just galaxies and stars and planets — a lot of it is just radio frequencies and different types of magnetic frequencies. It’s so interesting to me to dive into that, and I’m excited to bring that to the students.”

Kristina is not only looking forward to teaching astronomy this summer, she’s excited to learn along with the students. For her, it’s a lifelong endeavor.

“This is more than just a science class,” she says. “I hope students will gain a new appreciation of this super inter-disciplinary field that is still so new and developing — there are a ton of jobs and research in this space! I see this from such a holistic view, and it’s my hope the students will as well.”

Classes begin June 18 and continue through July 25. Register today at online.thoughtandindustry.com. Learn more about ATI's online courses here.

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