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Primary Students Can Learn Astronomy Online

Primary Students Can Learn Astronomy Online

Primary school students can now learn astronomy on the internet.

A course specifically for New Zealand students has been developed by New Zealand’s National Observatory.

Titled ‘Astronomy for Little Stars’ the course is designed for year 6 and 7 students although students of other ages can also access the course.

“We want to thank all the teachers who have assisted with the development of this course” said Carter Observatory spokesperson Robert Shaw.

“The course had several trials last year which enabled the content and language to be developed for the target audience.”

It is designed to assist primary school teachers, and only teachers can set up access to the course. The teacher must first go to the website and set up their class with a ‘secret code’. Then they tell the class their secret code.

The students go to the website and enter their secret code. This gives them access to the course. “We have found the teachers and the students love the process. In fact, the secret code enables us to keep track of classes and to send the certificates to the right teacher,” says Mr Shaw.

“There is still some uncertainty about how long it is going to take the average student to complete the course. Generally, the trial indicated that it will take a student about two hours, which means they will log onto the website three or perhaps four times” says Mr Shaw.

Students taking part need to have access to the internet to complete this course. All the materials and assessment questions are on the website, and many students begin the work at school and then complete the course at home, in their own time.

Mr Shaw said the primary school course was a natural development from the secondary school courses the Observatory already teaches on the internet. We have hundreds of secondary students from throughout New Zealand working away on the internet, and some of the teachers asked if it would be possible to do something for younger students.

Every student who completes the course receives a coloured Certificate from New Zealand’s National Observatory, the Carter Observatory. The certificates are sent to the teachers at the end of each week. The idea is that the teachers present them to their students. The certificates are sent by email to the teacher and they print them.

The course “Astronomy for Little Stars” is a basic introduction into astronomy. It takes a language learners approach and teaches specific words that you need to understand astronomy. The challenge for the developers has been to keep the course simple but meaningful. Carter Observatory has held long debates about how to teach concepts such as ‘space’ and ‘the universe’ to young students.

“The methods you use on the internet are not always those that you would use in the classroom”, says Mr Shaw.

The course costs $3.00 per student. Schools are billed for their students when the teacher registers a class. There is also a take-home form for those schools that wish to hand the cost on to the parents of participating students.

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