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  • Shannon SchmollAstronomy Update - Dr. Shannon Schmoll
    The annual Astronomy Update Lecture, a highly-rated conference event, provides the latest astronomical information, investigates what has changed in the past year, and explores current theories on the workings of the Universe.

    Dr. Shannon Schmoll is the director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University where she has been working to expand both astronomy programming and learning of other subjects under the dome. She earned a joint PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics and Education from the University of Michigan in 2013. Her research has focused on integrating field trips to informal learning environments into formal science curriculum. She is currently working on research around extending learning beyond the dome after planetarium shows. She was also a member of the first cohort of the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors program and continues to provide outreach around why we build so many telescopes in Chile.

  • Dave Weinrich Spitz Lecture: Stories from a Child of the Space Age - Dave Weinrich
    The annual Spitz Lecture is named after planetarium pioneer Armand N. Spitz. Criteria for selecting the Spitz Lecturer include individuals who, in the words of Armand N. Spitz, "...have creative imaginations in this field and the courage to visualize the achievement of ideals in a practical way by the use of the planetarium instrument" and "...who are not afraid to acknowledge that they have a dream." Past lecturers include astronomers, educators, the widow of Armand N. Spitz, and many pillars of the planetarium community.

    Dave Weinrich has been a passionate lover of the night sky for over fifty years and especially enjoys sharing it with others. He is a native of Minnesota and worked as a high school science teacher in Iowa, a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia and Ghana, and the planetarium coordinator at Minnesota State University Moorhead for thirty-one years. A former president of the International Planetarium Society, he helped build the first public planetarium in Ghana and continues to pursue astronomy education activities in Africa and Asia.

    From time immemorial, stories have been part of all cultures around the world. Young children clamor for stories from their parents. Elders use stories to pass on their wisdom and cultural values to the next generation, providing a connection to the past and a conduit to the future. Stories add richness and meaning to our lives. As planetarian professionals, much of our time in the dome is spent telling stories, whether they be in the form of narratives that educate and entertain our audiences or the rich mythology of the night sky. In this talk, Dave will share some of the stories that have shaped and molded his personal and professional life, with the hope that you may find similar meaningful and personal perspectives in your own life.

  • Will Kinney Cosmic Inflation and the Beginning of the Universe - Dr. Will Kinney

    Will Kinney is a professor in the Department of Physics at the University at Buffalo, SUNY, where he has been on faculty since 2003. Dr. Kinney received his Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University, and PhD from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has worked as a research associate at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Florida, and Columbia University, and held visiting positions at Yale University, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, the University of Chicago, the University of Valencia, and Stockholm University. Dr.

    Kinney's research focuses on the physics of the very early universe, including inflationary cosmology, the Cosmic Microwave Background, Dark Matter, and Dark Energy. He has authored more than seventy published research articles, and received the SUNY Chancellor's award for excellence in teaching in 2014. Kinney is author of the popular book, "An Infinity of Worlds: Cosmic Inflation and the Beginning of the Universe" available from MIT Press.

  • Wendy Paterson Space, the Final Frontier: These are the Voyages . . . - Dr. Wendy Paterson

    I will discuss the importance of introducing a “star view” for children and young adults to help them develop a greater sense of their place on this tiny blue orb in the cosmos. Planetariums help us flex our astronomical muscles as we grow from children of the earth into responsible citizens of the universe. John Gardner identified an “Environmental” or “Naturalist” intelligence as one of eight intelligences he theorized need to be developed in children. It is inspiring to know how many young children can relate to the importance of their role in protecting the earth. The Planetarium experience transports these emergent citizens so that they may look down on their mother earth and truly understand how their work here will be felt in our galaxy and beyond.

    Dr. Wendy A. Paterson is in her 31st year of service to Buffalo State College. Coming to the college in 1988 as a developmental and educational technology specialist, she moved to the faculty of Elementary Education and Reading in 1997 and became that department’s chair from 2003-2009. In 2009, she was appointed Dean of the School of Education at St. John Fisher College but returned to Buffalo State in 2012 as the Dean of the School of Education here. Dr. Paterson is a “home grown” Bengal with bachelor (1975) and master (1976) of science degrees in education.

    Her career has been marked by awards for leadership and scholarly accomplishment. In 1996 she received the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service. In 2004, she received the International Reading Association’s Albert J. Harris Award for research making “an outstanding contribution to the prevention and/or assessment of reading or learning disabilities.” SUNY at Buffalo, named her a 2005 Distinguished Alumnus. In 2013, Kenmore West added her to their Corridor of Honor as an “educator, leader and visionary.” In 2015, the WNY Network for Women Leaders in Higher Education recognized her with the Bernice Poss Award for leadership in the professional advancement of women. In 2016, she received the Lifetime Achievement in English Teaching Award from the Western New York Network of English Teachers (WNYNET) and in 2018 the National School Development Council recognizing her role in the revitalization of the Educational Leadership program at Buffalo State with their Cooperative Leadership Award.

    Her scholarship spans an eclectic array of interests from computer assisted instructional design to single-parent families. She has published two books on single parents. The first, Unbroken Homes: Single-Parent Mothers Tell Their Stories (2003), was featured in the Haworth Innovations in Feminist Studies series and the sequel, Diaries of a Forgotten Parent: Divorced Dads on Fathering through and beyond Divorce, was released in 2010 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. She is most proud of her most recent work, a playful reflection on the experiences of women leaders called “Whine and Wine: A case study on mentoring support for women in higher education administration.”

    Dr. Paterson is a “closet astronomer” and while her science is the pedagogy of teaching, her secret love has always been the stars. She is an avid Star Trek fan whose favorite expression is Captain Jean Luc Picard’s direction to his crew, “Make It So!” Her presentation tonight gives her the chance to focus on her true love of all things “in a galaxy far, far away.”


  • Jenny Shipway Challenging Misconceptions - Dr. Jenny Shipway - Zoom

    Jenny has been working in and with planetaria for nearly twenty years, including ten years leading the 17m digital dome at Winchester Science Centre, UK. She has sung songs with toddlers, taught astronomy to school children, and moved corporate customers to tears (in a good way!). She is now an independent contractor, working on a variety of projects including education research training and scriptwriting/consultancy for fulldome films. She sits on the IPS Education Committee (Education Research sub-committee) and is a past president of the British Association of Planetaria. She is based in Winchester, UK. http://www.jennyshipway.com.

    How do you feel when your beliefs are challenged? Planetarium audiences often arrive with folk beliefs about how the universe works, such as the mistaken belief that Earth's shadow causes the phases of the Moon. Misconceptions like this can create troublesome barriers to learning the conflicting scientific explanation. In this new talk, Jenny will present an overview of what psychology research has to say about these barriers, and the advice it can offer to help overcome them. Breakout activities will allow discussion with respect to participants' own practice. And attendees will have the opportunity to personally experience these barriers to learning, as an incredibly popular misconception from everyday life is exposed and challenged.