UK National Schools' Astronomer

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


Following two PPARC National Award bids to support astronomy education in the UK, primarily through the role of 'National Schools' Astronomer' (NSA), I wish to continue and develop aspects of this work through a PPARC S+S Fellowship. The particular aspect that I wish to develop is an extension of a highly successful 'science communication' workshop delivered for the past 2 years within the Graduate School at Cardiff University. My proposal would allow me to run 10 workshops each year at universities and regional centres around the UK, targeting professional and amateur astronomers in particular. The workshops would educate astronomers (and young postgrads and postdocs in particular) in the requirements for dealing with schools audiences, but also contain valuable elements dealing with general science communication skills and media and public work. The other key function I envisage for this role would be to maintain the existing regional network of centres that can act as training sites and 'help desks' for schools involved with robotic astronomy. The current loose network of around a dozen sites could easily be doubled in size (with existing expressions of interest), but the commitment of providing training, workshops and user support at each site requires additional staff time. The final part of the NSA role would be an online element, based around the existing resource and news website, This site was established to support the Deep Impact UK small award project in 2005, but has proven very popular with UK teachers looking for a site that points them at suitable resources etc. Whilst not the one-stop-shop website that was recommended by the Barstow Report, it certainly has the potential to grow in use amongst the UK astronomy/space education community, particularly in support of the fast-growing GCSE Astronomy course. These three elements all link together to provide a 'help and support' structure for UK educators, and to a lesser extent students, within which many other PPARC-supported initiatives would gain great benefits. At the very least, the proposal would produce several hundred better-trained schools' speakers from within the astronomy/space science community, a tried-and-tested teacher training programme running at venues across the UK (and at which there are trained individuals who can assist schools in the local area) and a topical and targeted website supporting UK schools interests in astronomy/space.


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