STEAMing through Dark Skies and Biodiversity with ESERO

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Dark Skies and Biodiversity

It’s surprising how few people have ever seen a truly dark sky. Those living in large towns and cities can only see the glow of artificial light is visible overhead as a yellow hue. On a clear night in Ireland under a dark sky, you can see over 4,000 twinkling stars, planets such as Venus or Jupiter and even meteor showers and all with the unaided eye. This TeachNet course from ESERO Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland’s Curious Minds, will explore how Dark Skies can be used as a theme to engage pupils in developing STEM skills, help them identify planets and stars, understand the moon, light pollution and climate problems that directly affect their community and identify possible solutions…

Technical Requirements

All our courses require broadband Internet access and participants need to be familiar with using the internet, downloading and installing software.

Course Objectives
  • Highlight how Dark Skies can be used as a theme to engage pupils in developing STEM skills.
  • Promote STEM Education which is a key priority in Primary education as highlighted in the STEM Education Policy Statement.
  • Enhance teacher confidence in teaching STEM through inquiry through the use of the Curious Minds/ESERO Framework for Inquiry.
  • Introduce teachers to creative ways of developing STEM skills such as collaboration, skilled communication, problem solving, knowledge construction and use of ICT for learning.
  • Facilitate reflection and self-assessment activities prompting teachers to consider their use of ICT in their practice, encouraging teachers to contrast how often technology is used as a teaching aid against how often it is used by students to support their own learning and the development of their STEM skills.
  • Equip participants with the knowledge and skills to use and learn about a variety of tools to support teaching, learning and assessment activities.
  • Provide participants with the opportunity to connect with other educators and expand their own professional learning networks. The sessions are designed to be interactive with activities and tasks that encourage collaboration incorporated throughout.
  • Highlight the importance of whole school planning for STEM through the SSE process and how the Curious Minds’ Awards can facilitate a school wide approach to STEM.
Expected Outcomes
  • Provide teachers with an approach to engage pupils in exploring the night sky, identify planets and stars, understand the moon, light pollution and climate problems that directly affect their community and identify possible solutions.
  • Promote pupil centred inquiry learning within SESE curriculum areas. Inquiry learning requires students to be actively involved in making observations, collecting and analyzing information, synthesizing information, and drawing conclusions.
  • Develop critical thinking and problem solving skills in science, technology, engineering and maths through the lens of dark skies
  • Understand what Biodiversity is and how Biodiversity is threatened by human activity
  • Be aware of some of the specific threats to Biodiversity caused by light pollution and some the species that are most at risk.
  • Be familiar with some techniques for learning about nocturnal species in the classroom and how to incorporate nocturnal species into school Biodiversity plans.
  • Understand the importance of biodiversity for well being
  • Identify Cultural associations the night sky in arts, folklore, and story.
  • Understand the term archaeoastronomy and key sites in Ireland.
  • Be aware of significant Irish Astronomers in History.
  • Using a cross curricular approach to explore dark skies through SESE History, SPHE, English, Mathematics, Irish, Art and Drama.
  • Understand how to apply the school self-evaluation guidelines to their own teaching, as they consider how STEM can be improved throughout the school.
Course Duration

Delivered online, this course can be taken anytime between July 1st and August 16th, 2024. Participants are required to engage meaningfully with online content for approximately 20 hours. Whilst participation and engagement with the course content will be primarily judged on the quality of their contributions, an attendance roll will be kept and a log of their time spent working online.

Course Authors

Frances McCarthy is MTU’s Blackrock Castle Observatory Education and Outreach Officer. She is interested in all things space and passionate about STEM subjects in general. She develops curriculum material for SpaceWeek, delivers CPD and engages with learners of all ages. You’ll find her on the road with a portable planetarium and on the airwaves chatting about space and science topics.

Frances McCarthy

Georgia MacMillan has been working to raise awareness of light pollution since 2013. She was involved in the establishment of Mayo’s Gold Tier international Dark Sky Park and was appointed as a part-time Mayo Dark Sky Development Officer last year. In 2018 she received Outsider Magazine’s EcoHero award and a Dark Sky Defender award from the International Dark Sky Association. She joined the International Committee of the International Dark Sky Association as a European representative in 2021. Georgia collaborates with Dark Sky Ireland colleagues to promote best practice in lighting and was recently project manager for the community driven Master Lighting Plan for Newport, Mayo.

Georgia MacMillan

Úna Halpin has a BSc in Geology and an MSc in Environmental Engineering and has worked in Environmental and Science
Education, developing resources and facilitating education programmes for primary school pupils and teachers on behalf of Curious Minds/ESERO and other organisations since 2005.

Úna Halpin
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