A textbook presents Astronomy experiments aimed at Portuguese-speaking students
Cristina G. Pedraz/DICYT A team of 12 researchers from Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe have written a book entitled From the Planet Earth to Space that suggests a series of tasks and experiments in areas such as Astronomy, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Cosmology for junior high school pupils. The work, which is mainly aimed at teachers from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa, CPLP), has a initial print run of 750 copies and has had the support of the International Bank of São Tomé and Príncipe and of the Astronomy Development Office of the International Astronomical Union.
One of its editors and authors, Paulo Jorge Lourenço, who is a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Research Institute of the University of Coimbra in Portugal and of the Science and Technology Foundation, explains that the book arose after the holding of ECLIPSE 2013: History and Science in Príncipe. This event was organised by the Government of the Autonomous Region of Príncipe, the HBD Group (Tourist Investments) and the Mathematics of Planet Earth (Matemática do Planeta Terra, MPT) project held in October and November 2013 in Príncipe (São Tomé and Príncipe).
This didactic event included workshops and training courses “that proved to be highly relevant for students, teachers, and the community in general”. Its conclusion therefore expounded the common challenge of continuing with this line of action and of leaving a record “not only for the participants in the event but also for all those who rise to the daily challenge of providing significant learning experiences to those around them and of sharing a common language”.
The combining of this requirement with the setting up of a project for the creation of a Portuguese Language Centre for Astronomy that took place there was the reason for writing the book with support materials for Portuguese-speaking teachers.
Likewise the team of editors, authors, and proofreaders of the book have also taken into account the relation to the theme of International Light Year (2015) declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The relationship between the light and cosmology was indeed the focus within the context of General Relativity during the ECLIPSE 2013 event, with the island of Príncipe being one of the places that contributed to the experimental testing of this theory. “2015 will be the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's announcement of General Relativity and we also intend to celebrate the milestone”, reveals Lourenço.
The publication suggests 15 tasks, although it actually presents 14 as the 15th is only available on-line and requires the use of technological resources. These practices and experiments can be carried out both in the classroom and elsewhere in relation to matters that allow the linking of the different areas of knowledge; these are detailed on a journey that takes us from the Earth to space. Although the tasks are interdisciplinary they have been classified in three main groups: Astronomy, Experimental Physics Teaching, and Cosmology.
As the editor and author explain, parallel to the book which is non-profit-making in nature a website has been developed to support and complement the tasks presented. This allows the printing and adaptation of the materials according to the needs and contexts of application. The tasks suggested that are restricted to certain geographical locations are therefore available on-line with adaptations to make them suitable for other regions.
The pages of the website for each of the tasks are accessible not only from mobile devices with an Internet connection but also by QR Code. These specific pages display all the information for each task together with support files (presentations, spreadsheets, materials for printing, etc.).
“Our objective is to make the teacher's job easier, allowing the carrying out of innovative tasks, minimising the time used in preparing them, and thus making their operation more profitable and increasing their suitability to the school and existential context of all the interested parties”, he concludes.