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Free Astronomy Holiday Course



The Carter Observatory will run a new NCEA course in astronomy next week. The course is a trial of the new unit standards in astronomy being developed by the Carter Observatory in conjunction with the New Zealand Qualifications' Authority.

The Carter Observatory wants to find out how its new course runs and identify any problems with the new unit standards before they are finalized by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority next month.

The Carter Observatory is New Zealand's National Observatory established by Act of Parliament to advance the science of astronomy throughout the country.

As part of their mandate the Observatory has invested in the writing of new unit standards that it will teach on the internet into secondary schools throughout New Zealand.

The trial course will be run by Carter Observatory teacher John Field and will be from 20 to 23 January at the Carter Observatory, Kelburn.

Mr Field said the program is "exciting and will engage students".

"Students will do most of the work on the internet at home, we will provide them with activities and presentations in the morning to speed up their progress through the internet based course."

"Each morning we will be able to ask them about their progress through the internet course."

"The idea is that the course developers will be able to learn from the experiences of these students. That is why we are providing the 4 days for free.

"It is expected that most of the students will complete the course at home and as soon as it is registered on the Qualifications Framework, in February, they will pay $190 to gain the credits."

"Our courses are for secondary school students just beginning NCEA Level 1 . We are working in close partnerships with schools to deliver the courses into the schools via the internet" Mr Field said.

"Students are also able to work at home and this method of delivery has great flexibility for the schools and students."

"Astronomy is a fast moving subject and it lends itself to a visual interactive presentation using the internet. All students will need to have a reliable computer and connection to the internet. There is no other equipment required and we will teach them the internet skills they need."

"The course is a total of 50 hours of learning and is a substantial commitment for students. The students that complete the course will have to pay to obtain credits towards NCEA.

"Along the way students will learn internet skills and how to communicate with other students. We hope to build on the natural inclinations of todays teenager - this is the texting world and we want capitalize on that in the interests of education."

"This particular course is about the solar system, and other internet based courses will be available during the year on galaxies, space, cosmology, traditional Pacific navigation, and Maori astronomy".

"They all provide credits towards NCEA and thus will extend the course offerings of schools throughout New Zealand."

"We are providing something different for students and interestng in science and technology. Astronomy is a great vehicle to promote science".

Carter Observatory Board member, Porirua City Councillor Robert Shaw, said the Carter had invested its own money in the development project in the interests on New Zealand education.

The Carter Board believes New Zealand needs to attract more students into science and technology.

"The Carter has had magnificent support from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority" Mr Shaw added.

Students interested in the special course should contact John Field by email or telephone the Observatory. Alternatively, they can go to the web site


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