Fantastic worlds and where to find them: astrobiology outreach for KS2 and KS3

Rolfe, Samantha M. and Gallaway, Mark (2017). Fantastic worlds and where to find them: astrobiology outreach for KS2 and KS3. In: 7th Astrobiology Society of Britain Conference, 13-14 Sep 2017.

Abstract

The Kings College London ASPIRES Report (2013) introduced the concept of ‘Science Capital’ and the importance of early years outreach in addressing aspirations towards STEM careers. Additionally, in recent years science educators have become aware of the so-called Key Stage (KS) Three Hump, the drop off in science engagement by pupils aged 11-13, where children become discouraged in choosing science as a career. The University of Hertfordshire runs an extensive Physics & Astronomy outreach scheme in collaboration with The Ogden Trust to provide opportunities for schools to promote STEM subjects. During the 2017/18 outreach season the Outreach Team delivered workshops and activities to over 15,000 children, of which 10,000 were KS2. We are currently developing an astrobiology workshop, aimed at late KS2 and KS3, to be incorporated into the overall outreach programme. This includes a hands-on microscope experience where pupils can observe tardigrades and learn how they are important to astrobiology, as well as how to find their own to examine. Feedback from initial trails suggested that several pupils requested microscopes for presents since attending the outreach event. The University of Hertfordshire has a long history of presenting planetarium shows and owns three planetaria (one fixed, two mobile) and flexible HD projection systems. Our new programme will use this equipment to present shows on astrobiology, including discussing exoplanets, including the discovery of an exoplanet around the nearest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri; extremophiles and the conditions they live in on Earth and the similar conditions that exist in our Solar System and potentially on known exoplanets. This presentation introduces our current astrobiology outreach programme to promote discussion around astrobiology outreach and as to how our resources could be further exploited to provide a more comprehensive and inclusive experience for pupils of all abilities.

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