Change in Pluto’s Status Opens Door
To Teach Students about Scientific Study

‘Science as a Dynamic Human Endeavor’ is Lecture Series’ First Topic

RICHARDSON, Texas (Sept. 21, 2006) – Pluto may have been demoted from being a full-fledged planet, but it’s still important to scientists.  In January, NASA launched a spacecraft to visit the newly classified dwarf planet by 2016.

“The debate over Pluto highlights just how rich the scientific understanding of the solar system has become, and how much more there is yet to learn,” writes Dr. Mary Urquhart, for an upcoming issue of The Texas Science Teacher, the journal of the Science Teachers Association of Texas.  Urquhart is planetary scientist and assistant professor of science education at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD).

Dr. Mary Urquhart, an assistant professor
of science education at UTD, will discuss
the ever-changing understanding of
our solar system on Monday, Oct. 2.

During a lecture Monday, Oct. 2, Urquhart and UTD research scientist Dr. Marc Hairston will discuss the ever-changing understanding of the solar system and the opportunities it affords to teach students about the scientific process.

Urquhart wrote, “Rather than being a source of dismay for children and their teachers, public debates, such as that surrounding how astronomers should classify Pluto, are an opportunity. These exchanges expose us all to the dynamic nature of science and how scientists, as human beings, struggle to develop consensus in response to important new world-view-changing data.”

The Pluto lecture kicks off the university’s popular annual “Seminar Series for Life-Long Learners,” which is intended to share recent advances in science and mathematics education with educators and the general public.

Future sessions are to be announced.

According to Dr. Cynthia E. Ledbetter, head of UTD’s Science/Mathematics Education Department, the seminars draw hundreds of community members to hear discussions about subjects ranging from teaching math to critical thinking to community-based science education.

Teachers will receive continuing professional education credit at the close of each seminar. Some will also get DVDs or illustrated lyrics of a song about the Pluto controversy.

The seminars, which are free and open to the public, will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday evenings in the Conference Center, Room CN1.112, on the UTD campus in Richardson.

The series is presented by two organizations at UTD – the Center for Science Education Research and the Teacher Development Center.  For additional information about the series, please call 972-883-2496.

About UTD

The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor®, enrolls more than 14,500 students.  The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores.  The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs.  For additional information about UTD, please visit the university’s website at