Planetary Science Education – Workshop Concepts for Classrooms and Internships
Thursday, 18 December 2014
In Germany, education in astronomy and planetary sciences is limited to very few schools or universities and is actively pursued by only selected research groups. Our group is situated at the Freie Universität Berlin and we are actively involved in space missions such as Mars Express, Cassini in the Saturnian system, and DAWN at Vesta and Ceres. In order to enhance communication and establish a broader basis for building up knowledge on our solar-system neighborhood, we started to offer educational outreach in the form of workshops for groups of up to 20 students from primary/middle schools to high schools. Small group sizes guarantee practical, interactive, and dialog-based working environments as well as a high level of motivation. Several topical workshops have been designed which are targeted at different age groups and which consider different educational background settings. One workshop called “Impact craters on planets and moons” provides a group-oriented setting in which 3-4 students analyze spacecraft images showing diverse shapes of impact craters on planetary surfaces. It is targeted not only at promoting knowledge about processes on planetary surfaces but it also stimulates visual interpretation skills, 3D viewing and reading of map data. A second workshop “We plan a manned mission to Mars” aims at fostering practical team work by designing simple space mission scenarios which are solved within a team by collaboration and responsibility. A practical outdoor activity called “Everything rotates around the Sun” targets at developing a perception of absolute – but in particular relative – sizes, scales and dimensions of objects in our solar system. Yet another workshop “Craters, volcanoes and co. – become a geologist on Mars” was offered at the annual national “Girls’ Day” aiming at motivating primary to middle school girls to deal with topics in classical natural sciences. Small groups investigated and interpreted geomorphologic features in image data of the Martian surface and presented their results in the end. Extensive handouts and high-quality print material supplemented face-to-face exercises. For the future we plan to expand our workshop concepts, to give students the possibility of conducting a week-long internship with our Planetary Sciences research group.