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Real Science for Younger Scientists

Student looking through large telescope

Getting an eyeful. A Utah high school student peers through the 41-inch reflecting telescope at the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wis., during a visit by a group of Hands-On Universe (HOU) participants. The HOU program enables high-school students, along with their teachers, to experience science as astronomers do, analyzing real data from national and international telescopes and even making discoveries. In 1998, for example, a group of HOU students was the first to identify a new asteroid in the far reaches of the solar system.

Credit: Curtis Craig, Hands-On Universe


Small group gathered around photographic plates.

University of Chicago Professor Kyle Cudworth (left) shows photographic plates from the Yerkes Observatory's plate vault to visiting Hands-On Universe students and their physics teacher (and presidential awardee in 2000) Curtis Craig (center). The historic plates reveal how stars have moved over many years of observations captured at the observatory.

Credit: Nathan Falslev, Hands-On Universe


Photo of whale.

A humpback whale breach in Massachusetts Bay. WhaleNet uses whales, seals and other marine mammals as "hooks" to engage students in classroom science activities that involve critical thinking, mathematics, geography, and research.

Credit: J. Michael Williamson Photo, WhaleNet (


North Atlantic Tracking Map.

Students participating in WhaleNet use tracking maps and real data to follow the movements of whales, seals and other marine mammals.

Credit: WhaleNet (


Satellite tagged harbor seal

A harbor seal with a satellite tag. The tiny transmitter provides data that enable WhaleNet students to track the mammal's movements. Real animals and real data make science come alive for the students, according to J. Michael Williamson, WhaleNet's director.

Credit: WhaleNet/New England Aquarium Photo


Photo of 2 albatrosses

Courting Laysan albatrosses give simultaneous "moo" calls. During a 3-year run in classrooms around the world, The Albatross Project provided data to students who monitored the birds as they nested, found feeding grounds and raised their young.

Credit: Jill Awkerman, The Albatross Project, Wake Forest University


Photo of albatross on the shore

A Black-footed albatross in its breeding colony on Tern Island in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. For The Albatross Project, the large flying birds that nested in Hawaii were fitted with radio transmitters. The devices sent out data that was collected by satellites showing the birds' locations over time. Students using the data tracked the birds' movements.

Credit: Jill Awkerman, The Albatross Project, Wake Forest University