A yearlong of classroom projects

Tuesday, Mike Simmons presented “A Global Education Program of Collaboration in Astronomical experiments”, the transit of Venus programme of Astronomers Without Borders, at the CAP 2011 meeting in Beijing. The transit of Venus gives the opportunity to replicate an entire chain of solar system measurements from the ancient Greeks’ determination of the Earth’s diameter to the Sun-Earth distance in kilometres. Classrooms worldwide will be engaged in these measurements and encouraged to collaborate with other classrooms in distant locations. The transit of Venus and the expanding use of online communicating technologies combine to provide a unique opportunity to engage classrooms around the world without regard to location or cultural differences. Says Simmons,

Students will gain not only scientific knowledge and an understanding of simple scientific methodology through inquiry-based learning, but also knowledge of the wider world, and the Universe, in which they live.

The yearlong programme provides a series of simple, hands-on projects, enabling students to make measurements of the size of the Earth and inner solar system using instrumentation created with common, easily obtained materials. Through a real-time, interactive GIS data system, students can collaborate to obtain the multiple, widely-separated observations needed for many of these measurements without the travel required earlier, and they can experience the Earth’s shape first-hand through shared observations.

The entire programme culminates with the transit of Venus in June 2012, when classrooms will use our phone app to time the exact moments of the apparent contacts between Venus and the Sun. This programme is a global, collaborative project open to institutions worldwide. For information on participation go to AWB’s website or contact Mike Simmons: mikes@astronomerswithoutborders.org.

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