Developing astronomy education activities

During the summer of 2015, two interns joined astroEDU team, with Edward Gomez at Cardiff University, thanks to seed funding from Royal Astronomical Society (Paul Ruffle bequest fund). One of them was Franziska Batten Zaunig from Cardiff; an undergraduate of Astrophysics at Cardiff University. Franziska supported development and review process of astroEDU.

Franziska shares her experience with astroEDU;

“AstroEDU is based on user generated content. This means that there is a wide range of quality within the content submitted. All work has to be checked thoroughly then to be brought into a consistent format.

Things I look out for:

a) Are all columns filled in? Often content is missing, like the age bracket for which the experiment is appropriate, learning outcomes, list of materials needed etc. This has to be determined by reading the rest of the document, making a judgement as to what would be appropriate and then added in.

b) Does the editor agree with the choices made by the original author? Sometimes age ranges or ways of assessment have to be adjusted to be more in line with the UK curriculum. Is the session too long, too short? Does it make sense to cut it into segments? A critical approach is necessary to improve the submissions.

c) Does the activity flow well? As AstroEDU aims to give educators an easy way of adding experiments to their class activities it is important that the activities are presented with simple, easy to follow steps and with maximum clarity. Often documents have to be adjusted (i.e. by changing the order of steps or adding in additional steps) to get to this stage.

d) Implementing visual aids. Basically, this entails adding pictures to the text which aim to help to clarify the content. These have to be open source and appropriately helpful.

Once a submission has been edited like this, it should be ready for spell checking and going up onto the AstroEDU website.

Numbers: In total I worked on 56 documents. Around 25 of these needed little work and were able to be submitted after just changing some minor details. 8 needed a rewrite from scratch to bring them into the AstroEDU format as the submission was lacking substantial details. For these, only the initial idea survived this process. Most of the work fell somewhere in between.

Personally, I really enjoyed working on AstroEDU. The range of ideas submitted is truly impressive and I will surely employ some of them in my future outreach work. Gaining more experience on how to write clearly and concisely on a wide range of subjects is also a valuable skill. Hence I think this was an excellent summer placement.”

In her spare time, Franziska likes to play boardgames and read old science fiction books.