UC researchers appointed national astronomy teaching coordinators for the International Astronomical Union

Nuno Peixinho and Rosa Doran, from the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC), have just been appointed national coordinators of astronomy education (National Astronomy Education Coordinator, NAE) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), scientific society that aims to promote astronomy in all its aspects through international collaboration.

In particular, researchers from the FCTUC Earth and Space Research Center (CITEUC) are the national representatives who will interact with the Office of Astronomy for Education (Office of Astronomy for Education, OAE), based in Heidelberg, Germany. The International Astronomical Union, which brings together thousands of astronomers from more than 100 countries, created this office in November 2019, with the aim of supporting the community of astronomers and astronomy teachers/educators to bring the fascination of astronomy to schools, establishing a worldwide network of National Astronomy Teaching Coordinators (NAECs), to promote astronomy in national curricula, as well as fostering the creation of educational materials and teacher training.

The national coordinators of astronomy education have the mission of “helping the OAE to document and analyze how astronomy is used in teaching in Portugal, to identify the relevant actions related to the teaching of astronomy and the use of astronomy for existing teaching, as well as how to make efforts in organizing the professional training of teachers and educators who use astronomy, and collaborate in the development and/or development of quality and accessible educational materials, adapted to the specific needs of our country and of different school levels”, reports astronomer Nuno Peixinho.

This nomination, in addition to representing an “important recognition of our work, is a unique opportunity to contribute decisively to the teaching of astronomy, in particular, and to greater and more effective use of astronomy in teaching, in general, in Portugal. Astronomy is probably the science that most unanimously fascinates everyone. Paradoxically, it has been increasingly eliminated from school curricula, being extremely underused for teaching other subjects”, say researchers Nuno Peixinho and Rosa Doran.

This trend must be reversed. Not only because almost everything that exists was made in the stars, but because we must know the world and the universe around us, know our understanding of the origin and transformation of all things, including ourselves, and question ourselves about everything that”, emphasizes Nuno Peixinho.

For the coordinator of the Unit for the Promotion of Science at the Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory of UC, astronomy “interconnects directly or indirectly with practically everything that surrounds us and we must take advantage of this same astronomy as a fascinating and infinite vehicle for teaching mathematics, the exact sciences, the natural sciences, the technologies … without forgetting even philosophy. Better lives and better transforms those who know more, and what astronomy has to make known is infinite”.

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