The McGill Space Explorers program (formerly Adopt an Astronomer ) has been very active since September 2015.
For the past four months, a group of volunteers in the Department of Physics at McGill has been planning and facilitating inquiry-based physics and astronomy lessons to be delivered in primary schools. The volunteers have been paired with classrooms (grades 4 to 6, ages 9 to 12) and have already completed one or two visits each. During these visits, the students are treated as astronauts-in-training who need to learn fundamental physics concepts to be able to complete their missions.
When creating each activity, we make an effort to tie our concepts to learning goals in the Quebec Progression of Learning¹. In this, we are are consulting with graduate students from the McGill Department of Education. Two of five modules have been presented thus far in each classroom in the 2015-2016 school year: the Heat and Temperature module, focusing on thermal conductivity, and the Collisions module, focusing on understanding the trajectories of moving objects and the importance of developing a scientific methodology.
Over the next few months, in addition to finalizing the remaining activities, we will be focusing on effective assessment of the impact of our outreach activity on the students in the target classrooms. We are also aiming to recruit preservice teachers from the Education undergraduate program at McGill. We are planning on expanding the program to more classrooms for 2016, with groups that are beginning later in the school year receiving a shortened program featuring three activities instead of the total five.
Summary of Activities
● The project is coordinated by graduate students Gabrielle Simard and Erik Madsen and supervised by prof. Nikolas Provatas.
● Active collaborators from the faculty of Education are graduate students Steven Rossy and Ying Syuan Huang and prof. Anila Ashgar.
● The volunteers group is divided into six teams of ‘Senior’ Space Explorers with nearequal
gender balance, made up of 12 graduate students in Physics and two undergraduate students in Physics at McGill.
● The volunteer teams cover four different primary schools within the city of Montreal, two of them teaching in English and two of them teaching in French, for a total of 126 primary school students currently reached by our program.