Teaching Astronomy is fun when hands-on activities inspire learning

This past July, York's Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Science collaborated to offer a unique professional learning experience for Ontario teachers. Teaching Astronomy Through Fun Hands-on Activities Inspired by the Latest Discoveries was the latest in a series of leading edge professional learning modules offered to teachers that support identified teacher learning needs.

looking into outer spaceInspired by the latest discoveries and designed by professional astronomers from both York University and the University of Toronto, the blended certificate program supported educators to further develop scientific thinking in students in grades 9-12. The module  introduced a series of inquiry-based and hands-on activities to promote critical thinking and teach astronomy as professional scientists practice it.

Science faculty developed a series of hands-on learning activities designed to better equip high school teachers with authentic and engaging approaches to teaching astronomy. The Faculty of Education’s Professional Learning team worked with the Faculty of Science to implement the activities and offer the certificated module program.

Teachers participate in the Astronomy Module while it was field tested at a recent Science Teachers of Ontario (STAO) conference, Spring 2015Teachers engaged in the module  experienced hands-on activities from the perspective of the learner and discussed how to apply these activities in their own classrooms;  collaborated and shared with colleagues in the exploration of the instruction of Astronomy; and, taught astronomy in the same manner that professional scientists perform it.

The module, which was aligned with the Earth and Space component of the Ontario Ministry of Education's curriculum and current teaching pedagogies, included activities on extrasolar planets, cosmology, and black holes. The online component allowed teachers to continue to develop their understanding of Astronomy through inquiry-based activities, the sharing of teaching strategies, and online research and discussion.

"Ultimately this program assisted educators to develop activities to inspire new generations of students to study science by introducing them to the latest and most exciting discoveries in Astronomy enabled by innovative technologies and pedagogy", said Janet Murphy, Director of Professional Learning at York's Faculty of Education.

Highlights of the program included:

  • Two-day hands-on experiential workshops
  • Practice discussion activities in a facilitated online community
  • Instruction by  Astronomy professors and professional Astronomers in the Faculty of Science
  • A free Classroom Resource Kit for teachers ($35 value)
  • An optional free visit  (during the evening) to the York University Observatory
  • A certificate of completion at the conclusion of the program