AstroVARSITY – Teaching astronomy to undergraduates

The AstroVARSITY project intends to provide course and tutorial resources for Maths and Physics lecturers at undergraduate level in order to use astronomy to enhance science teaching as well as potentially start an astronomy module within their department. The project will also offer hands-on activities and exercises based on an off-the-shelf telescope and instruments package to conduct practical experiments and research.

The pilot project is targeting historically black universities in South Africa. Within the frame of this initial stage:

  • First workshop (AsTROW) was organized with lecturers coming from several Universities across South Africa (University of Zululand, University of Fort Hare, University of Venda, University of Limpopo) in October 2012.
  • Second workshop took place at the University of Zululand from July 15th – 17th, 2013.
  • Third workshop at the University of Zululand from October 19 – 23, 2015. It gathered lecturers and tutors form both the Physics and Maths departments in order to present them astronomy teaching material, discuss potential format of an introduction course and get them started with the small telescope and CCD camera that they acquired for the project.
  • The latest workshop was held in May 2016 on “The use of Virtual Observatory (VO) in Astronomy”. One of the main objectives of this workshop is to plan and create a conducive platform for the Departments of Physics and Mathematics to establish Astronomy and Cosmology as a qualification at UNIZULU with the sole aim of producing world class Astrophysicists and Cosmologists

Ultimately the goal is to implement a framework within the participating universities and to provide a package containing:

  • teaching material and
  • off-the-shelf instrumentation

This could be used by Physics and Maths department at Universities anywhere in the world enabling them to develop and use astronomy at undergraduate level as a support for science teaching.

Read more:
Resources for undergraduate courses
Astronomy Teaching and Research Orientation Workshop (AsTROW) 2012
AstroVARSITY Workshop at UniZulu 2015

Project leads:
Dr. Sudhanshu Barway, South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO)
Laure Catala, University of Cape Town (UCT) / South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO)