Hands-On Astronomy Teacher Training Conference

Last week the Faulkes Telescope Project took part in the "Hands-on Astronomy" four-day teacher training event at Cardiff University.

The conference was run in collaboration with our partners at Cardiff University, the National School’s Observatory and the National Science Learning Centre and focussed on training UK and European teachers on how they can apply astronomy in their classroom as an engaging and exciting theme for teaching the curriculum.

The four-day conference was divided into two main themes. On Monday and Tuesday, the presentations focussed on the Solar System and Space Missions, continuing on Wednesday and Thursday with Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology.

On Tuesday, the FT team opened with demonstrations of the Nebraska Astronomy Applet Project, an innovative project that provides online laboratories with accompanying background material, teacher guides and student worksheets making them great activities to base a lesson around with all the material packaged and ready to go!

This was followed by an introduction to the Faulkes Telescopes. Here Paul Roche introduced conference participants to the telescope network, the aim of the project and why it is in the interest of teachers to get their schools involved. Sarah Roberts continued with a tour of the FT website demonstrating how to access the Educational Resources that are provided and how they relate to the secondary and A-level curriculum.

In the afternoon, Emma Wride was then able to inform the teachers how to also get primary school students involved in astronomy with a demonstration of the AstroCymru 3D shows ‘Harewood House’ and ‘Extreme Places’. The 3D effects are not only a great way of encouraging the excitement of astronomy but also introduce students to the scale of our Universe and what is out there to be explored.

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On Thursday, Paul literally brought astronomy into the classroom with a demonstration on how to “cook a comet”. With just a few inexpensive, simple ingredients students can make their own comet, helping them to understand the materials that make up these bodies, their composition and even the effects of outgassing!

Fraser Lewis then closed the last day of the conference with a presentation of the Faulkes Telescope Project and the National Schools Observatory. Teachers were shown further educational resources that are available and also some of the projects that have been previously carried out by students. This highlighted how the two telescope projects provide fantastic opportunities for students to get involved in real scientific research. Fraser also informed the audience on some of the further resources that are currently in development and will soon be available to schools.

Masters student Sophie Bartlett was also present for the conference. Her thesis looks into the development and evaluation of new educational resources that teach the science and mathematics curriculum through an astronomy and space science context. She was able to take full advantage of regular interaction with the teachers throughout the duration of the conference, collecting questionnaires and gathering their personal opinions towards the curriculum and areas in particular they feel need addressing and would benefit from further resources. 

The conference was a great success, with teachers expressing genuine interest and enthusiasm in applying these resources to their classroom. The teachers who participated will also be invited back to a follow-up event on the 1st and 2nd of July to discuss how they and their schools have benefited from the conference and how they have made use of the resources.