High School Field Trip to the Pima County Adult Detention Complex

This year I started teaching government to our seniors at Desert Christian High School. I thought, “What better way for my students to understand civic duty, the roles and responsibilities of our local police, and the repercussions for not obeying the law than to take them to our local jail?” With that question in mind, I contacted our local detention center in Tucson, AZ, the Pima County Adult Detention Complex located at 1270 W. Silverlake Road. Here we are, standing in front of the complex after our tour. IMG_20190507_140431_954.jpgRather than me explain what the students learned from the experience, I thought it better to let them explain for themselves. Below are excerpts from their take-away presentations.

The main takeaways that I got from our visit was two things: one being that the officers always have the health of the inmates as top priority and two that this job even though its taxing has rich rewards of helping others. – Emma

I grew up around the idea that jail and prison were the exact same thing, So the people in jail were terrible and very guilty people, who did not have any sense of morals and always desired to do wrong. I was not sure how exactly they were housed together but imagined that it was the typical steel bars and then a hard bed and a sink in the back of cell. I did not think that the officers were concerned at all with the health of the inmates and making sure that they won’t hurt each other. I didn’t know that they were able to have tablets and that there was a “store” inside the housing units that they could shop at. The media represents jail as one of those places that is a rough place to be in. The media tries to make it seem like the jail is not exactly trying to better the inmates, when in reality they totally have the betterment of the inmates in mind. That is why they now have the tablets which they can use for taking classes to educate themselves while they are in jail waiting for their court date. -Emma Continue reading “High School Field Trip to the Pima County Adult Detention Complex”

A Semester-Long Project by “DJ Justin”

This year I decided to try something new (no shock there) with my US History students. As I have done in the past, I wanted to create a semester-long project with multiple check points – in “teacher speak” we call these formative assessments – rather than a standard, summative assessment. What I changed was the creativity options – teachers call this differentiated learning – for this project. This year, I offered my students a wide range of artistic options to show their understanding of the historical content covered in class.

“DJ Justin,” an amazing international student, took my artistic challenge and ran with it. I am so excited to show you his three checkpoint submissions: songs he wrote that discuss his personal interpretation of the content from our second-semester units. Go Justin!

Johny Johny (lyrics in PDF form)

Enjoy these final two submissions, which were provided in audio format.

Struggle (lyrics in PDF form)

A Dream (lyrics in PDF form)

Kitt Peak National Observatory

This weekend the kids and I visited Kitt Peak National Observatory (NOAO), located at the top of route 386 on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 56 miles outside of Tucson, AZ. Kitt Peak is home to one of the largest arrays of radio and optical telescopes in the world. I signed us up for the three daytime tours: the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope Tour (10-11am), the 2.1 meter telescope (11:30-12:30pm), and 4-meter Mayall telescope (1:30-2:30pm). All three docent-led tours cost $13 per person, a steal in my opinion.

According to NOAO, the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope is “the world’s most striking solar telescope” and is “used by astronomers primarily during daylight hours to study the nearest star, the Sun” because it can “see farther into the infrared than any other solar telescope.”

Here are a few more images from the McMath Pierce Solar Telescope. In the first picture Gigi, our docent, explained that this is the control panel astronomers use for the telescope. Interestingly, it is made by the same company and in the same era as they control panels at the Titan II Missile Museum! The second image is also in the control room, where the image the telescope collects comes through a hole in the ceiling and onto an image processing station. Way cool!

The 2.1 meter telescope was the first major solar telescope on Kitt Peak, seeing its first light in 1964. According to NOAO, “numerous important discoveries were made at the 2.1-meter. It first detected very distant clouds of hydrogen gas between galaxies, known as the Lyman-alpha forest. It observed the first example of gravitational lensing (as predicted by Einstein) and the first pulsating white dwarf star. Research into the rotation rate of spiral galaxies that began at the 2.1-meter eventually led to our current understanding of the existence of dark matter in the Universe.” I took this black and white image while we were inside the viewing area of the actual telescope. I had no idea this is what they actually look like.

The 4-meter Mayall telescope is the largest telescope on Kitt Peak weighting just shy of 300 tons. Seeing its first light in 1973, it is “one of the most scientifically productive telescopes in the world. …For over 40 years the Mayall has been involved in cutting-edge astronomical research, most notably in understanding the size and large-scale structure of the visible universe. It has also been used in research on exoplanets (planets that orbit stars other than the Sun).” Currently, astronomers on Kitt Peak are retrofitting the Mayall with DESI, an acronym for a unique spectrometer which will allow the telescope to quickly obtain the spectra of 5,000 objects simultaneously.

Here are more images from this gigantic telescope. The first two images are from inside the viewing area of the actual telescope. The last three are from inside and outside the environment viewing area of the telescope. From here you get a bird’s-eye view of surrounding landscape of the Tohono O’odham Reservation.

A lot of the tour went over my kids’ heads, but for me, the knowledge I gained about the field of astronomy blew my mind. Of course, I was particularly interested in the history behind it all (for example, the observatory was built in the fifties in response to the space race and the Cold War) but the details behind the science used here took my breath away. Highly recommend!