SUNY New Paltz welcomed Lou Mayo, NASA Astronomer and professor of astronomy at Marymount University, to campus to lead a lecture and workshop titled “The Search for Life in the Universe,” sponsored by the Mid-Hudson cohort of the New York State (NYS) Master Teachers Program.
This presentation demonstrated the College’s leadership as one of four original host campuses for the Master Teachers Program, a state-wide initiative supporting a community of dedicated k-12 educators in their pursuit of expertise in classroom content and pedagogical practice.
Mayo led the audience through an exploration of the current state of knowledge surrounding life on Earth and what it may tell us about physical conditions necessary for extraterrestrial life. He demonstrated ideas for projecting the probability of the existence of life-sustaining environments elsewhere in the universe, helping students comprehend the sheer size of the cosmos using astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics.
“Our best estimates from the work we have done in exoplanet research to date, is that there in fact may be as many as 3 x 1022 stars in the universe, and that there are probably more planets than stars in the universe,” Mayo said. “If this is true, that’s an incredible number of planets with the opportunity to host different forms of life.”
Having established these methods, Mayo advanced to modeling hands-on activities that could be deployed in classroom settings for multiple ages, including a “star plot” exercise in which participants drew randomly from dozens of paper cut-out “stars” and were asked to chart them using a set of data that impact surrounding planets’ potential hospitality to living organisms.
About the Master Teacher Program
The New York State Master Teacher Program is an initiative launched by Governor Cuomo in 2013 to partner colleges and universities with K-12 educators in New York in hopes of strengthening and expanding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education across the state. New Paltz is one of four original SUNY host campuses, and has grown from serving 20 Master Teachers in its first year to more than 70 in 2016.
More information about Master Teachers is available at http://www.suny.edu/masterteacher/.