Astronomy In Schools

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19 years 8 months ago #2425 by albertw
Astronomy In Schools was created by albertw
Taking this tangent from another thread....

Recording an analemma would be a fascinating project for a teacher. Unfortunately it seems that very few science teachers are interestec in astronomy as a hobby.

I've only met a couple of science teachers (and prospective science teachers) in recent times and I dont think you can blame them for not having an interest in astronomy. Many junior cert teachers for example would only have required knowledge in core subjects, for example how many physicists would know enough to make biology interesting? Im not saying that the teachers dont know the subjects, but I am suggesting that they may not know them in depth enough to make them as intersting as they could :)

Some people I've met were unaware of the following:
* That you can see the moons of Jupiter in binoculars and record them orbiting.
* That a small telescope shows the rings of Saturn.
* That the ISS is and regularly visible.
* That sunspots are easy to see. (never look directly at the Sun....)
* lunar eclipses happen so often (well more than people think anyway)

Several of these things can lead to interesting small projects (work out the period of Europa, rotation period of the sun...) but I think it will be up to the astronomers to bring this to the teachers.

Perhaps a booklet could be prepared for teachers outlining some introductory astronomy principles and experiments that can be carried out, and of course show how these tie into the syllabus. Then perhaps someone would distribute it to teachers for us (Dept of Ed. / ASTI ?)

This might be a doable project for a few people to get done by the Summer and distributed by September? So any science teachers here have any opinions?


Albert White MSc FRAS
Chairperson, International Dark Sky Association - Irish Section

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19 years 8 months ago #2426 by johnflannery
Replied by johnflannery on topic Re: Astronomy In Schools
hi Al,

lots of items of interest there on your post. The ASTI are having their general meeting in Dundalk this weekend and that would have been an opportunity to get an astronomy display of sorts set up. I mentioned it at the IFAS meeting in Tullamore so it might be something to consider for next year.

over the years, I've learned though that there are many, many groups in Ireland with an interest in marrying education and astronomy. I'm not talking astronomy clubs but lots of other science education bodies. In a way -- and I hope no-one feels I'm blowing my own trumpet -- but I'd be one of the few people that has come across virtually all these bodies in one form or another and at some stage in the last decade.

I've spoken with others over a pint about these at times and wondered aloud how an umbrella group could unite them all.

IFAS could do so -- maybe in the guise of an educational subcommittee. I've made a bit of a start in purchasing a domain name ( www.skywatcher.ie ) when I was planning on creating a one-stop shop where schools and the public at large could get timely and accurate information on what's up in the sky tonight. There will be an emphasis on it being a fun and jargon-free introduction to the hobby. Sadly, other committments have prevented me from doing any work on the site so far.

a subcommittee of the Royal Irish Academy has been investigating the issue of astronomy in schools for at least five or six years but lack of funding is the major stumbling block. I think a small volunteer group could take up this baton and run with us -- with so many schools online, a network of astronomy enthuasiasts could help create a sound and exciting astronomy education web site.

I've a few books on the subject of astronomy education and will be in San Francisco in May where I'm hoping touch base with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and source some of their educational material. The proposed science centre in Islandbridge is an ideal opportunity to get a representation of astronomy too. iSCAN -- the Irish Science Centre Awareness Network -- have a spring meeting on May 15th ( www.iscan.ie ) and I'd urge anyone with an interest in science education to attend.

I've also recently been pricing a portable planetarium system manufactured in France. The company have sent me the spec and brochure; total cost 15,000 euro -- not a large sum for a major fundraising effort or actively seeking donations from science-orientated businesses. A small group of volunteers could then visit schools throughout the Greater Dublin area and beyond. Many schools hold Arts and Science weeks -- I used to help out for a day at one in Glasnevin along with Gerry Moloney -- and would be delighted to host planetarium shows.

anyway, got to fly, it's nearly bedtime! Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

John Flannery

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19 years 8 months ago #2430 by spculleton
Replied by spculleton on topic Re: Astronomy In Schools
Why should a science teacher be interested in astronomy? It's like assuming that a history teacher is involved in the local medieval re-enactment society. At Junior cert level astronomy is a small part of the physics course, and they have to give equal attention to the biology and chemistry courses. At Leaving Cert physics level it is still only a facet of the course, and with teachers and students so hell-bent on points accumulation education is often the first casualty. Rote-learning can become the order of the day.

I wouldn't recommend using the unions as a means of encouraging astronomy-education in our schools. That's not to rule them out of course, but other bodies, such as the science teachers association, physics teachers association, transition year co-ordination body would be more effective. Our esteemed rivals are better known to the average science teacher/student.

The fact is that teachers need a reason to give over their time to teaching astronomy in greater detail. Giving them information such as that suggested by Al may encourage some of them. At the same time it must be acknowledged that students, and people in general, love looking through telescopes. Could the IFAS get involved in some kind of outreach programme that encourages 'telescope nights' in schools?

One interesting "way in" is actually through the new History syllabus. As part of the optional course The USA and the World 1945-1989 the students are required to study the Moon landing of 1969. I'll be teaching this course and part of my strategy will be a debate between students on whether or not the moon landings occured. It's a prime example of how historians should work, ie look at all the evidence and reach a conclusion. It would be useful for many schools to have an "expert" come into the school and speak to the students about the event. Before you run down to your local secondary school to volunteer be careful though; it's a fairly minor, yet essential, part of an optional course. They may not be teaching it. It might be useful though if we prepared some kind of handout for schools on the moon landing.

Shane Culleton.

Dozo Yoroshiku Onegai Shimasu

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19 years 8 months ago #2441 by spculleton
Replied by spculleton on topic Re: Astronomy In Schools
Here's your cloudy-night challenge:

Devise a twelve week course in astronomy to be taught by a person with at most a passing interest in the hobby and to people who have little or no interest in the hobby (90% of them anyway). This course should include project work which does not cause insurance or liability problems for the school. A form of assessment must also be included.

How much cosmology should be included?
How much time should be spent refuting "bad astronomy"?
Do you emphasis deep-sky or solar system?
Is there a place in this course for discussions of ancient astronomy or even space exploration?
How does a teacher include observation in a course such as this?
Why do students all think that the North Star is the brightest star in the sky?
How do you justify the teaching of astronomy to a school which is finding it hard to juggle all other subjects on an increasingly constricted timetable?
How do you justify the teaching of astronomy to parents who see little more than points totals?
Any other questions?

Shane Culleton.

Dozo Yoroshiku Onegai Shimasu

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19 years 8 months ago #2455 by troggie
Replied by troggie on topic Re: Astronomy In Schools
Hi All

As a science teacher who is a biochemist/virologist by trade can I say I love teaching the astronomy part of science. My students love it too. To get over the problem that school takes place during daylight I have made great use of StarryNight software and a data-projector to try to give the classes an idea of what it is like to start off with naked eye astronomy and then progressing to binoculars. We have had great fun by setting simple challenges such as 'what colour is Betelguese?' When the results came in I used the software to confirm the result with the class. With a couple of students we built a 6' reflector and it is used to project sunspots on occasions as well.

Enthusiasm can go a long way.

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19 years 8 months ago #2456 by markdj
Replied by markdj on topic SN tips
You can use the keys, F7 and F8 to make the view in Starry Night Pro go full screen, looks great when projected.


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