Seattle, Wa. – Deidre Hunter was awarded the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) Education Prize this morning at the organization’s annual meeting in Seattle.
The AAS gives this award annually “to recognize outstanding contributions to the education of the public, students and/or the next generation of professional astronomers.” Hunter was chosen for co-founding a now two-decade-old astronomy education program for 5th-8th grade Navajo-Hopi students in Arizona and New Mexico.
The specific goals of the program are twofold: to help teachers excite Navajo and Hopi children about astronomy and to help the teachers learn about astronomy and astronomy activities so that they can better incorporate astronomy into their classrooms. Hunter said, “The Navajo-Hopi program is a group effort and about 21 astronomers have participated in it over the past 18 years. I am thankful to them for making the program what it is today.”
The AAS was founded in 1899 and is the major professional organization in North America for astronomers. It has granted a prize for education since 1992, when Carl Sagan won the inaugural award. Hunter said, “I’m floored to receive this award because there are lots of people out there working on educating students and the public. I am just one of many and am astounded that this program was selected out of all of the other efforts.”
Lowell director Jeff Hall said, “I’m delighted to see this well-deserved recognition of Deidre’s longtime effort by our major professional society.”
Hunter has worked at Lowell since 1986, primarily studying the nature and behavior of tiny irregular galaxies. In addition to her research, she has long been a proponent of education and in 1996 founded the Lowell Observatory Navajo-Hopi Astronomy Outreach program —with colleague Amanda Bosh— to reach underserved Native communities.
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