A Stargazing Opportunity for Half of England's Pupils

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hertfordshire
Department Name: School of Physics, Astronomy and Maths

Abstract

When it comes to enthusing young people into science, intuitive hands-on activities can be extremely effective. In this respect, the beauty of celestial objects has always contributed to make Astronomy particularly attractive, which would also explain the attention it generally receives from the media.

Yet, Astronomy has only a limited space in the national curriculum and in practice pupils are not provided with many chances to approach this subject, let alone to engage in first-hand experiments such as looking through the eyepiece of telescope.

The goal of this programme is to bring such a stargazing experience to as many pupils as possible over the course of three years, whilst boosting their teachers` in delivering this and other scientific subjects of the curriculum.

To achieve these goals, I will draw from my own 5-years-long experience as event organiser at the Bayfordbury observatory of the University of Hertordshire and tap into the capillary network of the Science Learning Centre Consortium (SLCC) for London, South-East and Central England, the head-quarters of which are also based at Bayfordbury, to mount nearly 40 stargazing events across an area that covers 47% of England's state schools. In order to man such a large number of events, which will feature also talks, planetarium shows, laboratory experiments and computer activities, I will seek out and involve keen teachers in each of the regional areas that I will visit, liaising also with local amateur astronomy groups to assist with the stargazing element of the event.

To ensure the success of these events and - most important - provide a lasting resource for teachers, I will assemble into a single Deployable Open Evening package all the explanations for setting up and running all the activities that will take place at these events, which will also link to the curriculum and in particular to the subject of the GCSE qualification in Astronomy. Such a package - most likely to be in the form of a tablet application - will be the real legacy of this programme, helping teachers to further carry on enthusing their students into Astronomy, either in class or by organising their own stargazing event, possibly also in collaboration with amateur astronomers in their communities.

If fact, I will judge the success of my programme not only on the level of enthusiasm that will be generated by my events, but mostly on the lasting use of my Deployable Open Evening package by teachers and monitoring the number of pupils that during my fellowship will choose, or show interest in opting for a GCSE in Astronomy.

Publications

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Baes M (2014) An extremely low gas-to-dust ratio in the dust-lane lenticular galaxy NGC 5485? in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters

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Davis T (2014) The ATLAS3D Project - XXVIII. Dynamically driven star formation suppression in early-type galaxies in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Emsellem E (2014) A kinematically distinct core and minor-axis rotation: the MUSE perspective on M87 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters

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Johansson J (2014) Diffuse gas in galaxies sheds new light on the origin of Type Ia supernovae in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Nyland K (2016) The atlas 3D Project - XXXI. Nuclear radio emission in nearby early-type galaxies in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Sarzi M (2016) Nuclear discs as clocks for the assembly history of early-type galaxies: the case of NGC 4458 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Title modeling clay exoplanets 
Description An hands on activity that uses modelling clay to explain exoplanets, and more specifically the way we detected and the concept of the habitable zone 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact This was one of the best activity that I run at my school stargazing events, and the one that went down most well among teacher who tried to man it. 
 
Description Schools reacted very positively to my initiative and teachers in particular found that the PC and Lab activities that I designed and run at their schools with their help were very instructive, and could potentially be used in their classes. Both children and parents also responded very positively to my school event.
Exploitation Route School should be eventually able to run by themselves stargazing events very much like those I am running at present. In fact, my work is mostly aimed at testing what works best in terms of activities and format, and in putting together a complete on-line documentation to help teachers reproducing what I have done so far.
Sectors Education

URL https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B240qJfP-z_GX1dyOXkxV0E4eU0
 
Description My research has been used during my school visits, as part of the PC and Lab activities that I run at these events, and during he talks that I deliver.
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural