Lead Educator's View: Astronomy in Portugal
- Published on Monday, 18 February 2013
Last year Caroline Molyneux, one of the National Space Academy Lead Educators, gained a place on an exciting European course. The following is her account of working with teachers from across Europe for one week last October. "In March 2012 I came across an advertisement for a selection of courses to be held in Estoril, Portugal and funded by the Comenius Project through the British Council. I applied for the course that would be running in our half term holiday and I was delighted when I was successful in gaining a place on the course.
The course was entitled "Building Educational Games to teach Space" as with my position as a Lead Educator for the National Space Centre and teaching Astronomy in school I thought this was an excellent opportunity. I flew out to Portugal on Sunday 29th October and returned on Sunday 4th November with the course being Monday-Friday. We took part in workshops each day from 8.30-7.30pm including:
- Modern Astronomy
- Use of Simple Programming Techniques to Build Educational Games
- Solar Observations
- Night Observations
- Science and Art
- The Mars Curiosity Rover
- Visit to Chromelech Sites (Sites of astro-archeological significance) accompanied by a PhD student in this area from the University of Lisbon
The course was extremely interesting and I was amazed to learn that there were 5 places available for UK Teachers but either no one else had applied or their applications weren't passed by the British Council (I think its probably the former!)
One of the most interesting parts of the course was that I was the only UK delegate out of 12 in total. For pre-work we had been asked to prepare a presentation on our Education System and our school to inform our European Colleagues. This was eye-opening, to learn the systems in other countries. For example Finland, who come top of the PISA league tables, presented that they felt their country gives students a very good basic education but that they are not particularly inspired into any subject in particular. They were amazed at the amount of enrichment and extra curricular time we give to our students. Sweden on the other hand seems very similar to us. The teachers are given "Targets" for each student by the government baed on data and if these are not achieved then the teacher is held to account. In Romania and Latvia, Education is more about enjoying the subjects, but teachers are paid considerably less than their European counterparts.
Overall it was a wonderful experience and I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity. I have kept in contact with many of the European teachers that I met through Twitter, Facebook and Email and we hope to collaborate in the future; for example, a teacher from Austria is setting up an E-Twinnings network (run through the British Council) to run competitions across Europe e.g. Students Building an online game as we did on the course. I have also been invited by one of my colleagues from Greece to visit Athens with 5 students in 2013 for their Astronomy Summer School. I am sure that many things will come out of this course."