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Highlands Ranch teacher's love for astronomy reaches new heights

Great teachers like Bob MacArthur at Highlands Ranch High School teach through experiences. He's about to get one at 43,000 feet.

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo — A Highlands Ranch High School teacher was selected to serve as an Airborne Astronomy Ambassador (AAA).

Bob MacArthur is one of 28 teachers to be selected nationwide and the first ever from Colorado. He will take part in the week-long program at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, Calif., which includes participating in research flights on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

“SOFIA is modified 747 that has been modified to fly at 43,000 feet,” MacArthur said. “It’s a 100-inch telescope in the back of a 747 and you’re up there all night doing various research.”

MacArthur teaches astronomy, geology, meteorology, earth science at the high school but said astronomy has been his passion his entire life.

“I remember my dad, he probably stuck my head up to an eyepiece when I was a baby," MacArthur said.

The AAA program is designed to give high school teachers hands-on training to increase STEM student achievement through training in astrophysics and planetary science content. At the end of the week, the educators then take a SOFIA science-oriented curriculum back in their classrooms.

Credit: 9NEWS

“I’ve been teaching for 18 years and it’s exciting to do new things to keep my education going,” MacArthur said. “Also to bring those experiences that I’m learning back into the classroom.”

The application process started for MacArthur this past November.  He said he’s known about his acceptance since December but couldn’t say anything until NASA officially released the news.

WATCH: Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors Explore with SOFIA (2016)

“I’ve been chomping at the bit to talk about it with my students, only my immediate family and the administration knew. So we were all excited to talk to people and now I can talk about it,” he said. 

“I think it’s an incredible opportunity to be with the other teachers,” said senior Peri Hennigar. “And [to] have the experience of it and then take it back to his class and show some of the stuff that is going on at NASA.”

MacArthur said a big part of what he does in his classroom is getting his students to experience science and hopes this program will help them do just that.

“We have the walls of the classroom and there’s learning that happens here too,” MacArthur said. “But I think when teachers live what they teach…the students get excited with them.”

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