ATNF outreach

ATNF teacher workshops

The first half of 2006 has seen the ATNF conduct three workshops for teachers, two in NSW and one in WA.

Astronomy in Your Classroom and Beyond was held in Geraldton, WA from 17 - 19 March. Modelled on the successful teacher workshops previously held at Parkes, the event attracted 20 teachers from the Mid West region and Perth. The workshop was organised in conjunction with the Office of Science and Innovation with support from Scitech through their Australian Schools Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics (ASISTM) grant Astronomy in WA, the Mid West Development Commission and Perth Observatory. Workshop sessions included talks by Dr Ray Norris, Dr George Hobbs and Lance Taylor with practical sessions by Rob Hollow. A highlight was a stunning viewing night held at Nunkara Farm accompanied by a wonderful barbecue dinner. A magnificent moonrise was an additional treat.

Geraldton workshop

Figure 1: Participants in "Astronomy in Your Classroom and Beyond" in Geraldton tackling one of the classroom activities (click on image for large version). Photo: Robert Hollow

A one-day workshop, Astrophysics for Physics Teachers was held at our Marsfield headquarters in April. This was focused on the content and activities teachers need to deliver the Astrophysics option in the NSW HSC Physics course.

Teachers viewing Sun

Figure 2: Teachers viewing the Sun safely at the workshop at Parkes (click on image for large version). Photo: Robert Hollow

The annual Astronomy from the Ground Up! workshop at Parkes on 19 - 21 May was attended by 18 teachers and two staff members from the Parkes Visitors Centre. Speakers included David Malin, Fred Watson (Anglo-Australian Observatory) and David McKinnon (Charles Sturt University) as well as ATNF staff and some of the participating teachers. As well as the lectures, participants learnt how to run a viewing night and find their way around the night sky. Highlights included a walk on the surface of the Dish and tour of the telescope and a sumptuous "Dinner by the Dish" at the Parkes Dish Café.

Participants at all of our workshops return home with a wealth of resources and ideas for use with their students.

ASISTM project Wildflowers in the Sky

The ATNF has been awarded an ASISTM grant by DEST for its Wildflowers in the Sky project. Fewer than 25% of applications were successful in receiving funding. The Wildflowers project will involve ATNF staff visiting and working closely with five partner schools in the Mid West region of WA in astronomy education. The partner schools are Cue Primary School, John Willcock College in Geraldton, Meekatharra District High School, Meekatharra School of the Air and Pia Wadjarri Remote Community School. Other partner institutions are Charles Sturt University through their Remote Telescope Project, Scitech in Perth and The Office of Science Technology and innovation in the WA Department of Industry and Resources.

The first stage of the project is a teacher professional development training day that takes place in Cue in late June. The Project Coordinator, Rob Hollow, and two ATNF astronomers will then visit each of the schools in August during National Science Week. A second school tour is planned for March 2007. They will work with teachers and students to develop new materials for use with the partner schools, other schools in WA and beyond. The materials and resources developed as part of the project will be made available to other schools via the web. The professional development of teachers will help them more effectively convey astronomical concepts in the classroom. Students will have the chance to meet and interact with professional scientists and be exposed to possible career paths in science and engineering. Schools will receive small optical telescopes for observations and other resources. This exciting and challenging project will see the profile of astronomy rise in the region and provide a valuable educational experience for the students and teachers involved.

Robert Hollow