Cosmic pathfinder: Exploring the potential of astronomy as a gateway to STEM

The challenge

Engaging students with STEM is a national priority for Australia, both for pathways into STEM careers and for developing the next generation of STEM-informed citizens, who will be future leaders and policy makers. Furthermore, tackling the issues that humanity faces into the future requires a synergy between STEM and non-STEM disciplines that needs to be nurtured in schools.

The awe, beauty, grandeur, and mystery of the night sky inspires and piques the curiosity of everyone across the blue marble that is spaceship Earth, providing us with a cosmic perspective. The challenge is how to leverage the unique characteristic of astronomy as a potentially rich educational context to bring together and demonstrate the synergy between STEM and non-STEM in the classroom.

Project overview

This project aims to explore the potential of using astronomy, as a gateway to engage more students with STEM, and highlight the deep connections between STEM and non-STEM disciplines. The project provides teachers and students with access to research-grade ground-based robotic telescopes, and astronomical databases to explore the wonders of the universe from an interdisciplinary perspective. The project is divided into two stages: the first stage involves an investigation of the nature of astronomy in the context of education, the second stage involves working collaboratively with teachers to develop resources and approaches to using astronomy as a context for teaching various topics in the curriculum.

Outcome

This project brings together contemporary perspectives and practices from astronomy (data, research-grade instruments) with visual art aesthetics and creative exploration involving astronomical imaging/data modelling at the interface of the disciplines. This will provide the grounding for how astronomy can be used to engage students in widened perspectives on STEM, and determining the effect of this engagement on their subject choices. Findings from this project will be used to develop a pedagogical and theoretical framework for connecting various subjects in schools using astronomy as a context. The project will work collaboratively with teachers to develop resources that bring the awe and wonder of the cosmos into classrooms.

Project team

Dr Saeed Salimpour

Deakin Distinguished Professor Russell Tytler

Dr Michael Fitzgerald

Timeline

2023-2025

Funding

Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

More information

www.capturingthecosmos.com.au

Keywords

astronomy, aesthetics, interdisiplinary