The goal of the CosmoAmautas project is to increase the scientific literacy in Peruvian school teachers and promote equity and inclusion in STEM education through teacher training.
In 2022, we ran a 6-day virtual workshop to train 74 teachers in several topics across astrophysics with focus on applications of the scientific method. The participants were middle and high-school teachers (grades 7-11), 50% female and 50% male teachers, from rural Peru’s disadvantaged socio-economic areas, which have less infrastructure and restricted access to reliable resources and education. They all received the CosmoAmautas box in their houses with all the required materials to ensure equitable participation. The teachers came from 7 new rural areas of Peru that have been most affected by COVID-19 due to their lack of resources; Cajamarca, Amazonas, Huancavelica, Pasco, Ayacucho, Puno and Ica, in addition to Moquegua, Loreto & Junín, which were targeted in the last edition but are most relevant as they are hosts of the national telescopes.
The workshop was successful according to the achieved outcome and the teachers’ feedback. The teachers’ expectations were exceeded or met, in 60% and 40% respectively, and 93% of the teachers affirmed having learned not only new content, but in particular, new educational approaches to apply to their scientific teaching in classroom. After the workshop, 7 new AstroClubs were formed, where a teacher and enrolled students carry out astronomy activities after school. Together with the AstroClubs built in the previous edition of CosmoAmautas, we are supporting 20 AstroClubs in total across the country and working with them continuously throughout the academic year. CosmoAmautas have furthermore built a network of teachers, allowing the formation of independent collaborations among them. For example, teachers have built inter-regional collaborations and presented their Astroclub work in national conferences. This edition of CosmoAmautas has empowered the scientific education of more than 4000 students through their teachers.
- Online workshop consisting of 6 one-day sessions of 6 hours each (weekends), for 70 teachers from the 7 regions most impacted by the pandemic, and 3 regions targeted last year. The workshop took place from April 9 to May 14 2022. The sessions included the following astronomical topics: (1) Earth, sun and moon / growth mindset, (2) our solar system, (3) stars and telescopes, (4) Exoplanets / global warming, (5) galaxies and gender balance in the classroom and (6) cosmology. They also cover topics beyond astronomy, such as inquiry-based learning methodology, the scientific method, growth mindset and climate change.
- As part of our last session, we assisted teachers in kickstarting their extracurricular AstroClubs, by offering them with digital and physical resources. We reminded them of the inquiry-based learning method that they were involved in during our sessions and proposed they repeat the sessions with their students and encourage them to design their own learning sessions to promote scientific inquiry in the way that best suits their specific needs. All participants will have access to our digital resources, but teachers who follow through and show proof of their AstroClubs are provided the physical resources, including posters for their classroom, reading material, audiovisual content, a small telescope and a package of educational video games. Additional monthly virtual activities with the AstroClub teachers and students took place throughout the year, including training in the use of their telescopes.
- Instructor training program began with an open call for a selection process, leading to a short list and interview of finalists that best complement our team’s diversity. We choose three new members of CosmoAmautas who then receive training, together with the team members selected last year, prior to and during the execution of our program, regarding our inquiry-based learning philosophy. Additionally they gave us feedback on our processes to improve the CosmoAmautas experience.
- Lectures: We gave: 6 interactive lectures on astronomy (1h each), 2 interactive lectures on pedagogy (inquiry learning and educational technology/ video games), 2 interactive lectures on indigenous astronomy in Peru, 1 interactive lecture on Dark Sky Awareness, 1 interactive lecture on Climate Change awareness by an expert (focused to the Peruvian situation), 1 interactive lecture on classroom strategies to motivate (not discourage) girls into STEM courses. The videos of these lectures are all available on our youtube channel.
- Book: We have updated and improved the book we published last year in Spanish (162 pages) which includes all lecture notes and activities that were used in the workshop. In particular, corrections and additions were made following suggestions from international referees, and several sections were added throughout the book with history insights on Peruvian Indigenous astronomy and main scientific contributions in particular by female astrophysicists.
- CosmoAmautas box: We have manufactured a material list of ~50 items, including a globe map, a milky way model and many low-cost materials that can be easily accessible by the students for the teachers to reproduce the activities. These boxes were sent to all participants.
- Stargazing box for Astroclub students: For each Astroclub we sent a package with a small telescope of national production, and a ‘rural’ stargazing kit for all the students in the Astroclubs, including custom made star maps (planispheres) for Peru at the coordinates of their regions, compasses and other educational material.
- Platform of educational video games: The final versions of four video games designed by our team are now available and updated based on feedback from experts. Sessions with the teachers and students from the AstroClubs took place to explore all four games and make the most of these resources.
- Improve the teachers’ scientific competence and knowledge: Achieve an increase in scientific literacy and STEM education in the country. Our teacher training promoted the integration of scientific methodology in the school plan through inquiry learning, providing a lesson plan and experiment set-ups with inexpensive materials adapted to the official Peruvian teaching plan. Participating teachers have completed one entry test before our planned training sessions and one exit test at the end of the last session. Participants were tested on both their content knowledge and their scientific competence, based on questions tailored from our curriculum and designed by our pedagogy experts. This data collection was done with Quizizz; a game-based learning platform that allows us to conduct our tests in a more engaging way. The results show a significant increase in both in their content knowledge (average score in the pre-test: 8,8/17; average score in the post-test: 10,4/17; p < 0,001) and in their scientific competence (average score in the pre-test: 2,2/10; average score in the post-test: 3,8/10; p < 0,001). These results demonstrate the successful outcome of the workshop in terms of scientific content.
- Scientific activity beyond the program: A few months after the program was over, students from schools participating in CosmoAmautas from two distant regions in the country teamed up to measure the earth diameter using the activity guidelines by our program. Their teachers were then selected to present the results of their initiative in the National Scientific Meeting (ECI2023), which was broadcasted nationally. Finally we organised events and have worked together with teachers and the students of the 21 AstroClubs (2021 & 2022) in bimonthly meetings, supervising in this way the continuous progress of students in the AstroClubs directly.
- Equitable Science Classrooms: We aimed to increase the number of girls who are interested in astronomy and other sciences, by exposing them to female role models (mostly female team, empower female science teachers) in science and encouraging participation in the science club. We included presentations and conversations around girls and women in science as part of our efforts to encourage and promote diversity in science. In particular we emphasize to the teachers opening Astroclubs, that it was important to encourage their female students to enroll to achieve a gender balanced classroom. We have then measured the fraction of female students enrolling in the AstroClubs, which was 48%. While we do not have the fraction which would have been achieved without the targeted efforts from the teachers, we are confident they have had a big impact there.
- Integration of digital tools in the classroom: We have promoted the integration of digital tools as resources that support learning by offering a platform of free online educational video games and follow-up workshops that focus on the application and impact of such resources in a classroom and beyond. To evaluate the success of the games developed by Cosmoamautas, we review some of the numbers provided by the itch.io platform that hosts our games. In total, our games were viewed 606 times and played 354 times. These numbers suggest a conversion rate (CVR) of ~58%, referring to the percentage of people who engaged (plays) with the game after exposure (views). According to this recent article, our CVR is about twice as high as most Apps on the Google Store. However, we do need to consider that, unlike most apps on the Google Store, the exposure of these games was very targeted, and only our target audience was exposed to them. Regardless, their numbers are still a good CVR and speak to the appeal of the games we developed and the potential of their impact as educational tools. It was outside our scope to evaluate these games’ educational impact as that would have required a more controlled study and potentially additional longitudinal studies. The long development time and small team working on these games would need to be accounted for in future projects to provide a more in-depth assessment of their impact. At this stage, the potential of games as educational tools is supported by the high conversion rate of our games and our qualitative assessment through feedback that the games were very appealing to our audience.
- We have mentored three new undergraduate instructors to participate in effectively communicating complex information and inquiry-based education. The success of the mentoring of our undergraduate volunteers is shown by their professional progress. One of the three new instructors has been accepted for a PhD program in Chile and the other two are finishing their studies in their universities.
- The teachers’ expectations were exceeded or met, in 60% and 40% respectively, and 93% of the teachers affirmed having learned not only new content, but in particular, new educational approaches to apply to their scientific classroom. All of them would recommend the workshop to their colleagues, and on average they rated the workshop with a score of 9.43/10. They considered the workshop length was ideal in 72% of the cases, whereas 19% considered it too short and 9% too long. 62% and 35% of the teachers indicate the workshop has strongly (5/5) or very much (4/5) improved their methodologies to teach STEM courses in in general. 49% and 38% of the teachers strongly (5/5) and very much(4/5) felt they understood the concepts taught in the workshop well enough to transfer them to their students. 61%(5/5) and 35%(4/5) indicate that they have learned how to increases the interest of their students in science. 71%(5/5) and 21%(4/5) is very motivated to apply the inquiry based learning method in other subjects they are teaching. Finally, 63% and 35% of the teachers felt that CosmoAmautas changed their perspective on the role of women in science, and they indicate they will actively look for and apply strategies to encourage their female students to participate in STEM activities (65% strongly (5/5) and 31.6% very much (4/5).