York U leads astronomy learning module for Ontario high school teachers

view from space fo the Earth

poster advertising the astronomy workshopOntario high school students may have an enhanced learning experience in science class, thanks to York University’s Faculties of Education and Science.

This past July, the two Faculties collaborated to offer a unique professional learning experience for Ontario teachers through a program titled “Teaching Astronomy Through Fun Hands-on Activities Inspired by the Latest Discoveries.”

The program is the latest in a series of leading-edge professional learning modules offered to teachers, which supports identified teacher learning needs.

Inspired by the latest discoveries, and designed by professional astronomers from both York University and the University of Toronto, the blended certificate program supports educators to further develop scientific thinking of students in Grades 9 to 12. The module introduced a series of inquiry-based, hands-on activities to promote critical thinking and teach astronomy as professional scientists practise it.

Science faculty developed a series of learning activities to better equip high school teachers with authentic and engaging approaches to teaching astronomy. The Faculty of Education’s Professional Learning team worked with the Faculty of Science to implement the activities and offer the certificated module program.

“Ultimately, this program assisted educators to develop activities to inspire new generations of students to study science by introducing them to the latest and most exciting discoveries in astronomy enabled by innovative technologies and pedagogy,” said Janet Murphy, director of Professional Learning in York’s Faculty of Education.

Highlights of the program included the following:

  • two-day, hands-on experiential workshops;
  • practice discussion activities in a facilitated online community;
  • instruction by astronomy professors and professional astronomers in the Faculty of Science;
  • a free classroom resource kit for teachers ($35 value);
  • an optional free visit (during the evening) to the York University Observatory; and
  • a certificate of completion at the conclusion of the program.

The module, which was aligned with the Earth & Space component of the Ontario Ministry of Education’s curriculum and current teaching pedagogies, included activities on extrasolar planets, cosmology and black holes.

The online component allowed teachers to continue to develop their understanding of astronomy through inquiry-based activities, the sharing of teaching strategies, and online research and discussion.