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Open-access platform for peer-reviewed astronomy education activities
Astronomy is one of the most interesting topics for STEAM learning. Moreover, astronomy can be linked to many curriculum topics. Some examples are geography (Earth, Moon, seasons, etc.), chemistry (atmospheric composition), biology (habitability), and mathematics (scales and proportions, navigation, etc.).
Although there are thousands of educational repositories, there are not many specifically for astronomy. Moreover, many challenges for educators when looking for resources available online are related with quality and openness of the resources. There are high quality existing repositories for astronomy education. However, the material may not be revised or remixed; it can only, in most of the cases, be redistributed and reused. All of these repositories are only available in English and the majority do not provide the original source text of materials, which would facilitate adaptation and translation, essential for an international platform.
AstroEDU (astroedu.iau.org) tries to solve these issues. It was launched in 2013 and is an IAU Office of Astronomy for Development project. AstroEDU is an online platform that provides free astronomy lesson plans for students from age 4 to 18. The activities on astroEDU allows educators and teachers freedom to Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute. Specially, astroEDU has an additional feature, Review.
Each of the astroEDU activities is peer-reviewed by an educator as well as an astronomer to ensure a high standard for scientific content and educational value. In the review process, the reviewer identity is not known to the activity's author and vice versa. Thus, astroEDU’s form of peer-review is double blind and free from bias. After review, activities are made available in many different formats: PDF, .doc, HTML, and epub, including the source files (RTF) for future translations and remixes. In this way, astroEDU is not another web repository for educational resources but a mechanism for peer-reviewing and publishing high-quality astronomy education activities in an open access way.
AstroEDU activities follow the standard components which can be broken in four main areas: Objectives (What will your students learn?), Materials (What are the teaching instruments?), Processes (How will you teach your students?) and assessment (How will you assess your students’ learning?). AstroEDU activities also provide necessary scientific background information that teachers will need to implement this activity. The activities are inquiry-based with several approaches, including Open-ended inquiry, Guided inquiry, Structured inquiry, Problem-solving, Fun Learning etc.
AstroEDU has been recognised for its educational value by Scientix — the European Network of Science Education. AstroEDU was awarded the first Scientix Award for Best Resources in STEAM that are freely available for educators and teachers.
As one of the main goals of the astroEDU is to promote the use of excellent activities worldwide, submissions in any language are welcomed. The website is currently available in English and the Italian version was launched in 2017. Only a truly cross-platform and cross-language experience will be useful for educators and teachers around the world, and AstroEDU is continuously trying to achieve that.