Keck Foundation Proposal

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September 21, 2005

This document is a set of ideas and talking points, one developed by Science Division/Science Friday group and one developed by Ray Hively, concerning what types of support Earlham might approach the W.M. Keck Foundation for.

Broadly speaking there are two areas of approach, which may or may not be mutually exclusive:

Background material related to Keck and these proposals:

Interdisciplinary Science Curriculum Modules

This project will focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and curriculum development among the natural and physical sciences departments at Earlham College, including biology, chemistry, computer science, geosciences, mathematics, and physics. It is clear that cutting-edge scientific research is becoming more interdisciplinary and collaborative at all levels; therefore, it is essential to train our students to develop multi-faceted approaches to problem solving. This project will introduce an important scientific problem and ask students to collect and analyze data, as well as make interpretations, using different disciplinary perspectives in both coursework and independent research projects with faculty. We believe this idea of collaborative learning will transform our undergraduate curriculum in the sciences and provide a model for interdisciplinary curricula for other liberal arts colleges.

In choosing the scientific problem around which to construct this project, we have tried to generate topics centered around faculty expertise, student interest, and local impact. We anticipate that if this approach is successful, both scientifically and educationally, we would be able to expand topics to reflect the changing interests of students, faculty, and the community. Therefore, our selection of the research problem is purposefully flexible, although any topic must meet the following explicit criteria:

We have considered two topics that meet the above criteria as themes with which to begin the development of this project:


Selling points:


The Keck Foundation has traditionally supported astronomy research, education, and outreach as demonstrated by their funding of the Keck Observatory in Hawaii and their recent funding of a planetarium. Earlham also has a strong record of interest and accomplishment in astronomy research, education, and outreach. Our Descriptive Astronomy course is taken by almost one-half of the students at the College and many of our physics majors go on to do research in astronomy in graduate school.

The goals of the Keck Foundation and the needs of Earlham College would appear to find a perfect match in the funding of a new state-of-the-art planetarium for Earlham College. The proposed planetarium would actually be a multipurpose digital theatre with some 60-80 theatre type seats and would make use of the latest technology in digital planetarium projectors which have now revolutionized the art of planetarium projection. The planetarium-theatre would be part of a renovated or new Joseph Moore Museum. In addition to giving planetarium shows with the latest technology in animated digital graphics, the theatre could also be used for lectures and for digital projection or conventional film showing involving any topic.

The planetarium would contribute to the science education mission of Earlham in the following respects

I believe that a quality planetarium would be in such demand that it would be in use virtually all the time either for astronomy courses at the College or local educational outreach. I would estimate its cost as being on the order of $1-2 million but with little expense after that. I think its educational benefit would make it very cost effective over time in spite of the large initial cost.

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