IAU Office for Astronomy and Education

IAU Office for Astronomy and Education

Previous experiences

Formal, non formal and informal education programs based on astronomy have been growing steadily in Italy in the last 20 years, also thanks to the strong impulse given by Franco Pacini, when he served as IAU President.
INAF, TOV, and SAlt promote these activities through professional figures and scientists who have been actively working in coordinating activities throughout Italy, participating in European projects and actively collaborating with the IAU educational programs.
In the following, some previous experiences in the field by the partners of this proposal:

Edu INAF

Astronomy has been brought to schools through eduINAF, a dedicated INAF educational online magazine: it was developed in the last few years after a pilot program was financed by the Italian Ministry of Education. The aim of this project was to provide educational resources, programs, news and activities for teachers and students. Educational resources are developed in close collaboration with school teachers, to whom they are addressed, in order to respond to their actual needs and to adapt them for optimal use in school programs.

AstroEDU-it

Italy, through INAF and SAIt, has been the first national partner of astroEDU, the IAU supported open-access peer-review platform for educators, winner of the Science Education Award and just recently selected among the top-100 education activities worldwide. In agreement with the astroEDU Board, INAF and SAIt opened the Italian editor’s office.

Media INAF

The Italian public at large can rely on mediaINAF, an online magazine of news, videos, interviews, INAF television and a mediaINAF YouTube channel, presenting and explaining recent discoveries and significant developments to a non-scientific community.

Italian Astronomy Olympiad

Since 2000, SAIt has been assigned the organization of the Italian Astronomy Olympiad by MIUR. The organization is carried out in close synergy with INAF and provides a rich program and high quality of the educational aspects proposed. To conform to international standards, high school students (14-18 years old) can participate in the national competitions. The number of participants has steadily increased from about 1000 students (2016), to over 8000 in the current edition, coming from 235 schools throughout Italy. The National Olympiad is carried out in the spirit of friendship, with the idea that competition should be considered as a stimulus for showing the participants’ capabilities; contacts and collaboration between students, teachers and scientists from various countries have a primary importance.

AstroKids

Non formal education has a specific role within INAF: science labs, games and other informal activities are run under the collective name of Astrokids. Since 2012 we have been working together with teachers to design, promote and deliver hands-on, self-directed and playful activities to engage children with STEAM. The most powerful method we used is tinkering, which is a holistic way to engage people with STEAM disciplines mixing them with art and combining hi-tech material with low-tech and recycled material. Knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to learner, but actively constructed by the mind (and the hands) of the learner. Constructionism suggested that learners are more likely to develop new insights and understandings while actively engaged in making an external artifact. This method supports the construction of knowledge within the context of building personally meaningful artifacts, and the more self-directed the work is the more meaningful the learning becomes.

Martina Tremenda

In this context, we also created a fictional character (Martina Tremenda) to build a coherent narrative framework. Her surname Tremenda means “naughty, mischievous, scamp, impertinent” and it rhymes with “merenda”, which is the typical afternoon snack time for kids. Some of Martina’s adventures are told in nursery rhymes and songs. She is very unconventional, and we believe she can be helpful also in giving kids a positive example that defies some gender-related prejudices, which tend to become more and more marked among kids aged 10-13.

Catch the Stars in the Net

Since 1998 and until 2010, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, which is now part of INAF, planned, implemented and published the web portal Catch the Stars in the Net, which was addressed to education. It was made up of 33 websites for astronomy education and public outreach, half of them also in English. Each website of the portal was sharply targeted (students with a precise age – range, public, teachers, amateurs, etc..). Part of the project has been recently renewed and transferred to eduINAF.

Training for teachers

Many learning courses for teachers are run every year by the partners of the consortium, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR).
One of these teacher training projects is “Officina degli Errori”. In this project, since 2012 we have been working together with teachers to design, promote and deliver hands-on, self-directed and playful activities to engage children with STEM. The most powerful method we used is tinkering, which is a holistic way to engage people with STEM disciplines mixing them with art and combining hi-tech material with low-tech and recycled material. Knowledge is not simply transmitted from teacher to learner, but actively constructed by the mind (and the hands) of the learner. Constructionism (Papert 1980) suggested that learners are more likely to develop new insights and understandings while actively engaged in making an external artifact. This method supports the construction of knowledge within the context of building personally meaningful artifacts, and the more self-directed the work is the more meaningful the learning becomes. currently the course is on SOFIA/MIUR platform and it is offered at Museo del Patrimonio Industriale