Developing Educational Activities at AstroEDU

Han Tran leading a workshop for teachers on designing inquiry-based educational activities about astronomy. Credits: H. Otten/UNAWE

In January 2017, Han Tran joined the Leiden Observatory’s Astronomy and Society Group as an intern for 7 months in Leiden, the Netherlands. During her internship, she developed 12 educational activities about dark matter, dark energy and black holes for astroEDU. This internship was part of her master’s specialisation on Science Communication and Society at Leiden University. After finishing her master’s degree, we were glad to have her back as part time Editor Assistant for IAU astroEDU, from November 2017 until August 2018.

In 2016, Han traveled from her motherland Vietnam to the Netherlands to do her master’s degree in Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences with a specialisation in Science Communication and Society — a unique specialisation offered at Leiden University, the Netherlands. In this specialisation, students have courses about science journalism, informal science education in museums and zoos, etc. Moreover, they get to bring this knowledge into practice during a half year internship. Han chose to do her internship at Astronomy and Society at Leiden Observatory in a project funded by the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO).

During this project Han got the possibility to work together with astronomers, which helped her gain a better understanding of various astronomical topics. She was able to develop three activities about dark matter and dark energy and nine activities about black holes for various age groups. These activities can be found on the astroEDU website. “I liked to develop educational activities as this experience is useful for my future career which will involve education and public outreach. I wanted to try different ways to explain the complex science, e.g. through activities or through videos”, Han explains.

Han Tran leading a workshop about developing inquiry-based educational materials for Discovery Club volunteers. Credits: H. Otten/UNAWE

While working on the educational activities, Han came across many more educational materials about black holes. She decided to compile a quick reference booklet filled with activities about black holes that are available online, enabling teachers and educators to find useful materials in a easy way.

Simultaneously, Han did research on the effectiveness of Space Scoop, a child-friendly astronomy news platform for science learning, during her internship. This research resulted in an interesting paper that has been published in the European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education. Han also presented her research at the CAP (Communicating Astronomy With The Public) conference in Japan in March 2018.

Moreover, Han helped developing three educational videos that accompanied five of her activities, in collaboration with the science communication and strategic design studio Science Now. She contributed to the scripts and provided feedback throughout the production of the videos.

More recently, she developed two educational activities about the Spiderweb galaxy. In these activities, primary and secondary school students can learn about gravity and galaxies. Moreover, they will discover how astronomers can look back into the past of the Universe by observing distant galaxies.

“I liked how all of the projects I was involved in, always incorporated the inclusive and equality elements. I have taken up this mindset whenever I think of new projects that I want to set up. So the Astronomy & Society Group has been a really good training place for me.” Han has now returned to Vietnam, to work for the Public Engagement department of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (Oucru) in Ho Chi Minh city. She will be the Schools Engagement Coordinator and will be coordinating engagement activities and projects with scientists and teachers to promote science in schools for primary and secondary school students, such as science clubs and science festivals.