Last month (March 2017) Vatican Observatory Director Br. Guy Consolmagno and Vatican Observatory Foundation Development Director Katie Steinke led a week-long tour of astronomy-related sites in Italy. They invited me to accompany them on the tour, to provide some extra history of astronomy expertise. I was happy to go, not only for all the obvious reasons (it was a fantastic experience, as you might imagine), but also because many of the places on the tour were connected to material that is part of my Astronomy 101 classes at my college (Jefferson Community & Technical College in Louisville, Kentucky). I could serve the tour as “the flowing font of history of astronomy knowledge,” and also serve my students by bringing them along on the trip “virtually” (by means of a video camera and YouTube).
Community college students are a diverse bunch: some have the means to travel and have been to Europe; many others are financially very hard-pressed and have travelled very little. This “virtual field trip,” made possible by the Vatican Observatory and by those who support the Observatory, would allow all the students to get a taste of being at these scientific sites. What an opportunity! What a boon to a class! This was not something you find in every astronomy class.
I had intended to use the videos just for class purposes, but, thanks to a little encouragement from Katie, I am posting them on this blog (below). They do give a glimpse of what the tour was like. However, keep in mind that these videos were made for a specific Astronomy 101 class. Thus they are addressed specifically to students from a certain place. And, occasionally they include references to class material that may be unfamiliar to the viewer who is not in the class. Also, keep in mind that I only took video at sites related to class material, and at sites where cameras were allowed. Thus there is, for example, no video from the tour’s visit to the Sistine Chapel.
I was able to “take the slow road” to Rome and make other videos at places that were not on the tour itself. These will appear in later posts.