Star struck mathematics: STEAM teaching with telescopes


End of 2016 the Belgian project “Sterren schitteren voor iedereen” (Stars sparkle for everyone) donated 6 telescopes to Cambodian Provincial and Regional Teacher Training Centres (PTTC and RTTC) to facilitate the understanding and teaching of STEAM subjects. With the support of Belgian astronomer Vincent Verhoeven, member of the Volkssterrenwacht of the University of Gent, the task force members and science teacher trainers from PTTCs and RTTCs Battambang and Kandal, science teacher trainers from PTTCs Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham, and technical officers from the Teacher Training Department received a training to upgrade their competences in teaching maths and science using a STEM approach.

The sun, the planets and mathematics

The 3-day training was organized in PTTC Kampong Cham in July this year. It focused on fundamental concepts in astronomy and the use of telescopes; all as an integrated part of a STEAM teaching approach for mathematics and science.

The solar system gave an exciting context to use astronomical units in mathematical applications: solar observations led to calculations of latitude velocities of solar spots and stellar distances let the participants use parsec and lightyears. The task force members and the teacher trainers also learned practical skills like how to set up a telescope or what safety procedures to employ when using a telescope. But most importantly they learned how to teach student teachers to use telescopes in STEAM integrated teaching within the primary and lower secondary school curriculum. With simple astronomy experiments the student teachers will be able to teach concepts like air pressure, light and colour.

Astro-fun in the curriculum

Both the science teacher trainers and the task force members were inspired by the training to integrate astronomy into STEAM teaching.

Science teacher trainer from RTTC Kandal: “Before this training I never considered using a telescope in STEAM teaching. I experienced that astronomy lends itself nicely to teach certain mathematics and science concepts from the curriculum. The training was also a good opportunity to strengthen my background knowledge on astronomy. I will integrate basic astronomy in my teaching and I’m convinced that my students will be happy to learn science and mathematics teaching using the telescope.”

The mathematics task force is looking to integrate astronomy elements in the manual they’re developing on STEAM teaching. When teaching about measurement in primary education, teachers can for example ask pupils to locate planets on the ruler/number line.
The classroom management task force will use names of the planets in the solar system to develop examples of differentiated instruction and flexible grouping techniques.