A challenge facing Europe in the new century is to increase its scientific and technological knowhow, in order to be competitive on a global scale. An essential component of a healthy scientific venture is a scientifically literate and well-educated population. In the past decade, the growing consensus about the need for rejuvenation of science education in our schools led professional scientists to join forces with educators in taking a careful look at how science is taught and how teachers are trained to teach science. The widespread interest in astronomy can be tapped not only to increase knowledge and understanding on the part of students, but also to illuminate the nature of science, as well as its power and limitations in shaping our future. Moreover, astronomy’s interdisciplinary nature and its natural links with technology position the field as excellent horizontal skills booster – it is the best subject to develop critical thinking, analytical and abstract reasoning competences among youngsters.
The STARS project aims to:
• equip teachers with innovative methodologies, knowledge, competencies and tools to deliver astronomy-related curriculum in a relevant and meaningful manner;
• foster the acquisition of critical thinking, analytical and abstract reasoning skills, thus contributing to increasing the attainment levels among students, as well as the acquisition of relevant knowledge;
• to develop a concept for new educational program in astronomy which is reflecting current trends and students' attitude towards the modern learning process;
• to equip target groups with open education resources on astronomy that are of high-quality, free to use and available in their national languages.
For this purpose, our consortium formed of seven organisations from Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, will develop:
a. Methodological Handbook for Teachers
b. Training Program for Teachers
c. Online Platform for Teachers, Students and Parents
d. Concept for Astronomy Education Program
In addition, we will conduct extensive piloting of all our products to ensure their applicability and validate the STARS approach. Targeted and meaningful dissemination will also contribute to involving at least 2150 participants in various project activities.
Our partnership is a unique symbiosis between schools, a publishing house, a digital solutions for the education sector company, a university and an astronomical society.
The desired impact from our joint efforts could be summarised as follows:
• improved knowledge and skill base on how to teach astronomy related subjects/topics at lower secondary level, as well as on how to integrate innovative methods and techniques in order to ensure high-quality and relevant teaching; enhanced competence to motivate students develop interest towards science and in particular astronomy as transdisciplinary subject enabling the acquisition of transversal skills such as critical thinking, analytical and abstract reasoning skills; enhanced competence in identifying and applying ICT and relevant digital resources; increased control and responsibility towards students’ attainment levels.
• higher motivation among students to study astronomy, due to its interrelation with numerous science-based fields and aspects of life; enhanced critical thinking, analytical and abstract reasoning skills; increased participation in the learning process and bigger ownership of own results and aptitudes;
• increased responsibility of policy makers for the quality of school education, to include astronomy as the fundamental subject raising the awareness of the different aspects encompassing science and technology in today’s society; proactive approach to addressing common challenges in relation to teachers skill gaps and lack of resources; enhanced ability to impact the system through reshaping the priorities of education to match the needs of modern society.