View Full Version : How do you make more astronomers?

Roger E. Moore
2018-Oct-11, 01:33 AM
Hope this sparks interest in more science outreach, teaching those who want to learn more and sparking interest in others.


A paradigm to develop new contributors to Astronomy

Grigoris Maravelias, et al. (Submitted on 9 Oct 2018)

One of the most regular activities of amateur clubs is scientific outreach, a paramount channel to disseminate scientific results. It is typically performed through talks given by both experts (professional astronomers) and non-experts to a diverse audience, including amateur astronomers. However, this is a rather passive, one-way, approach. The advance of technology has provided all the tools that can help the audience/amateurs to become more active in the scientific output. What is often missing is the proper guidance. To address that within the Greek amateur community the Hellenic Amateur Astronomy Association materialized a training program (free-of-charge and open-accessed) to develop scientific thought and the practical capabilities for amateurs to produce valuable results. The program ran from November 2014 to May 2015 focusing each session (month) to: the Sun, variable stars, comets, planets, artificial satellites, meteors. A professional and/or an experienced amateur astronomer was leading each session consisting of a theoretical part (highlights of the field, necessary observational techniques) and a hands-on part (observations and data analysis). At least 50 unique participants gained significant experience by following parts or the complete program.

2018-Oct-11, 02:54 PM
Interesting paper. As an astronomy educator who has done a little bit of education research (and read a lot of papers about it), I have a few comments.

This doesn't say what age the participants were. I assume it was for adults, but that was never stated. I can see benefits of having all ages. Of course, we want to inspire children into astronomy. It's a subject that has great interest of children from very young ages. But of course the challenge is keeping them engaged once they are exposed to the math and hard science part of it. But then we know that there is a large group of adults who got lost in that same process, so it's great to bring them back in. The idea of adults doing observational astronomy labs for fun is amazing!

I also don't see any worthwhile results other than how many people participated and how many completed it. As stated in the results section, "The main goal of this initiative was to introduce interested amateurs to the scientific
approach of Observational Astronomy. With this activity we managed to reach a significant number of people...Currently (2018), a few years after the completion of this project, we notice that new contributors do show up, although their absolute number is rather slim."

What is that number? What do the "new contributors" do when they show up? This seems to be more about introducing people to observational astronomy, as the results report, instead of developing new contributors to astronomy, as the title indicates.

Did they do any testing at all on what the participants learned or what they enjoyed about the sessions? Educational research needs to include such evaluation of outcomes. Those are things you can do immediately, with a quick survey at the end of each session or the entire series. It would be very hard to measure if they developed new contributors to astronomy, or specifically as they wrote in the paper, "develop scientific thought and the practical
capabilities for amateurs to produce scientifically valuable results." But it's still worthwhile to be able to report what the participants gained from the experience.

It's a great program and I applaud this organization for implementing it and particularly sharing it. But to present it as research it needs to go more in depth! They don't necessarily promise that they will or intended to in the paper. But I hope they take the opportunity to go this extra step.

Roger E. Moore
2018-Dec-06, 05:21 PM
Notes on an astronomy camp in Bulgaria, and what worked.


Astronomy summer camp "Beli Brezi", Bulgaria - building the astronomical community of the future

Valentin D. Ivanov, Agop Bohosian (Submitted on 4 Dec 2018)

Why study astronomy, why teach astronomy? We give answers to these fundamental questions based on our experience with the Astronomical Camp "Beli Brezi" (White Aspens; Kardzhali, Bulgaria). It has been a place for teaching astronomy to high schools kids for nearly half a century. We describe shortly the history of the camp and draw some conclusions based on nearly five decades of experience. Major among them is that the camp has gone further than just distributing astronomical knowledge - while this is an important and worthy task, the main achievement has been the cultivation of critical thinking among the pupils and we think that that is the main motivation to give positively reassuring answers the questions we asked at the beginning.