Week 2: Meetings and Birthday Greetings

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Sunday, June 19, 2016


Victoria DiTomasso

After week one of work and a great night at Astronomy on the National Mall, I kicked off my Saturday with grocery shopping and a bout of Netflix binging. Saturday evening, Maria, Dahlia and I adventured out for dinner, then killed some time in a bookstore before heading to the Source Festival. CulturalDC’s Source Festival is a three-week event that showcases 24 original performances. We saw six engaging ten-minute plays on a variety of topics ranging from the US military to Hindu goddesses.

On Sunday, Dahlia, Marissa and I went to the final day of DC Pride.* We walked around the festival and caught some of the concert performers. I was really excited to see Melanie Martinez, and I had a ton of fun watching her and shouting her lyrics along with the crowd. On Sunday night, seven of us interns went out for burgers and shakes.

Melanie Martinez performing at the Pride concert

The workweek was full of meetings. On Monday, Samantha, the two graduate students we’re working with, and I met with Jenny Krivanek, senior director of digital solutions and services, who will be building the website on which our lesson plans will be published. She told us how the lessons can be categorized and tagged online. On Wednesday the four of us on Team AIP History Lesson Plans (we have to work on that name) met with Greg Good, our mentor. We filled him in on the work we had done and set some deadlines to meet throughout the summer. That day we also went to AIP Chatters, an AIP all staff meeting. We introduced ourselves, met all of the other interns and new hires, and heard about what’s going on in AIP this month. On Thursday, we met with Rebecca Vieyra, AAPT’s K-12 program manager. We showed her some of the lesson plans and she gave us tips on how to make them more useful for physics teachers. We also discussed different ways for us to spread the word about the plans, from different AAPT websites that could link to our work to possibly doing a webinar about them toward the end of the summer. On Friday we met with Nathan, the web designer who will help us with the specifics of the lesson plan website. We talked about how to implement a tagging system that will make the lesson plans easily searchable.

Around all the meetings, I did work on some lesson plans. I wrote a physics lesson that incorporated atomic emission/absorption, spectroscopy, and the work of 19th century astronomer, Margaret Huggins. Margaret Huggins worked alongside her husband William Huggins; the pair used spectroscopy to learn about the sun, stars and nebulae. They were the first astronomers to use dry plate photography in their observations, and Margaret’s background in photography is thought to have facilitated that advancement. I also wrote two lessons, one for high school students and one for junior high students, about the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” This song helped escaped slaves find their way north by directing them to use the stars for navigation. The lessons use this song as a starting point to teach students about celestial navigation and why stars appear to move over time.  The high school lesson also teaches about latitude, longitude, right ascension and declination, the geographic and celestial coordinate systems. By Friday our team had finished revising all of the old lesson plans and started reviewing each other’s work.

This week wasn’t all work. Tuesday was my birthday! I woke up to a lovely chorus of “Happy Birthday”s from the other interns. Samantha made palacsinta (crepes with a ricotta filing) for me, which were delicious. My mom mailed me birthday gifts. It was really nice of everyone to pitch in and help me successfully celebrate the day!

Samantha made crepes

On Wednesday night, Samantha and I went to a jazz performance at the University of the District of Columbia. The music was good and the musicians had a blast, making it was a lot of fun to watch. Friday evening, us interns went bowling with the executive committee of SPS. I am spectacularly awful at bowling, but it was a lot of fun to hang out with everyone and to talk to the executive committee in an informal setting. After the official activities, Courtney took a number of us interns on a night tour of the monuments. We saw the Washington Monument, the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Memorials, and we went quickly by the Lincoln Memorial so that we would have time at the Albert Einstein Memorial (clearly showing our physicist priorities). We took a killer group picture and headed back home.

National World War II Memorial

All in all, this week went well! I’ve certainly enjoyed being 20 so far.

Until next time!

* I want to note that we went to the DC Pride Festival the day after the Orlando shooting. When we left for the festival, the media was reporting twenty lost lives and, as we know now, the number is forty-nine with fifty-three more wounded. It was a horrible tragedy that felt unreal in the midst of DC’s festivities. I am indescribably privileged to have enjoyed the rainbow-flooded, supportive atmosphere of Pride just hours after nearly fifty people were killed for doing the same. May we remember the victims of Orlando and may we create change in the wake of their loss.

Victoria DiTomasso