Astronomy for Schools

21 January, 2013

About 30 teachers have returned to the classroom this summer, demonstrating their commitment to education. They were invited by the ALMA observatory, Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), Heidelberg University in Germany and the Catholic University of Chile to attend a workshop on “Astronomy for Schools”. The workshop was held on January 16 at the school in Séquitor, close to San Pedro de Atacama.

With presentations on theory and workshops taught by Cecilia Scorza and Olaf Fischer of Heidelberg’s House of Astronomy, and using materials that can be recreated easily, teachers from Tocopilla, Antofagasta, Calama and San Pedro de Atacama traveled through the Solar System to compare the planets and learn about what makes Earth unique. They also explored other stars and their planets and their location in the Milky Way. Through experiments, they learned about techniques used by astronomers to observe star clusters hidden in dark clouds of dust and gas, as well as the central stars of the Milky Way that spin at a speed of millions of kilometers per hour around a supermassive black hole.

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“It has been extremely interesting and educational, because they taught us practical techniques to familiarize students with astronomy,” Ana María Mussatto, a teacher at Los Libertadores elementary school in Antofagasta. Vanessa González of Netland School in Antofagasta agreed: It was amazing, because as teachers we don’t have ways to teach this material in the classroom. We understand the theory, but friendlier and more realistic dynamics is what motivates the students.”

The “Astronomy for Schools” program was designed in collaboration with the Office of Astronomy for Development of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), in conjunction with the German-Chilean Center for Excellence (Heidelberg University and the Catholic University of Chile), and the House of Astronomy in Heidelberg and its “Science for Schools” and Universe Awareness programs.

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The program was also complemented by two top-level presentations: ALMA astronomer Juan Cortés spoke about “Chile’s amazing sky and observatories located in Chile”, while anthropologist Cristina Garrido lectured on “Autochthonous myths and legends of Atacama’s starry skies.”

The teachers are eager to share these new techniques and knowledge in their schools once vacation ends: “I want to restart the astronomy workshop at our school,” said María Solange Molina of the Likan Antai school in San Pedro de Atacama. “I’m going to interact more with the students, giving them practical tasks and not just written ones,” said Hugo Cáceres, a teacher of astronomy at Liceo Polivante in Paihuano.

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Contact:

Valeria Foncea
Education and Public Outreach Officer,
Joint ALMA Observatory
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56 2 467 6258
Cell: +56 9 75871963
Email: vfoncea@alma.cl