The post was written by Rufina Semovskih, a 5/6/7 Primary School Teacher in Queensland and workshop participant

Everyone has a bucket list. This should be on yours. The Astronomy from the Ground Up!  educator workshop, which was held 2 – 4 May was a stand out event for both primary and secondary teachers from all over Australia.

Teachers from the 2014 Astronomy from the Ground up! workshop in front of the Dish
Teachers from the 2014 Astronomy from the Ground up! workshop in front of the Dish

Teachers from the 2014 Astronomy from the Ground up! workshop in front of the Dish. Photo: R. Hollow

Located at the impressive CSIRO Parkes Observatory Visitor Centre in Parkes, NSW, this weekend workshop delivered a plethora of information about everything astronomy and space. An action-packed line-up of presenters spent the weekend up skilling workshop participants in the latest research into the birth and death of stars, dark matter, radio quasars, and galaxies.  Dr. Laura Gomez and Dr. Amy Kimball delivered on a number of lectures designed to educate, challenge and extend anyone’s level of understanding surrounding the universe.

Parkes Observatory Visitor Centre with the Dish in the background. Photo: R. Semovskih
Parkes Observatory Visitor Centre with the Dish in the background. Photo: R. Semovskih

Grounds of the CSIRO Parkes Observatory Visitor Centre with the Dish in the background.
Photo: R. Semovskih

 

Dr Amy Kimball holding up the Dish. Photo: R. Semovskih
Dr Amy Kimball holding up the Dish. Photo: R. Semovskih

Dr Amy Kimball holding up the Dish. Photo: R. Semovskih

Some of the sessions took a practical classroom approach with Rob Hollow presenting and demonstrating ideas and activities to carry into the classroom. This proved to be a great sharing session among all participants, who related what has worked or hasn’t worked with students in a classroom.  Everyone had the chance to feel like the centre of the universe in the intimate conference room responding and asking questions!

CSIRO Operations Scientist pointing out equipment inside the tower of the Dish. Photo: R. Semovskih
CSIRO Operations Scientist pointing out equipment inside the tower of the Dish. Photo: R. Semovskih

CSIRO Operations Scientist pointing out equipment inside the tower of the Dish. Photo: R. Semovskih

Lectures and sharing sessions aside, some of the most memorable moments were of course going for a telescope hay-ride on the Dish! Exploring the telescope from top to bottom, avoiding the temptation to press red buttons, laser beams, and other sensitive equipment, we really gained an in depth appreciation for the clever engineering and sophistication that went into the radio telescope’s construction.

Don't press this! The red emergency stop button on the telescopePhoto: R. Semovskih
Don't press this! The red emergency stop button on the telescopePhoto: R. Semovskih

Don’t press this!
Photo: R. Semovskih

Reading the night sky was a particular highlight for this group despite the clouds nearly sabotaging the evening under the stars. Rob Hollow shared a wealth of information, tried and tested, on how to run a night viewing of the sky for students. With wine and pizza under the stars, a number of telescopes set up, and eager participants to help each other navigate the night sky, using both the naked eye and apps, like Sky View Free to locate constellations, planets and more, the evening was a tremendous success.

The CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope, the Dish.  Photo: R. Semovskih
The CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope, the Dish. Photo: R. Semovskih

The CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope, the Dish.
Photo: R. Semovskih

How does all this relate to the catch phrase from the ground up? As a primary school teacher, knowing what the students are being taught in primary school, seeing where they need to be in high school and how they may take all that knowledge beyond was the greatest mapping exercise, the bigger picture, the point of it all insight I gained during the weekend. The wealth of information from IT links, global agency educational programs, and the exchange of ideas was of tremendous benefit to all participants. Forget Paris come to Parkes instead!

Rufina's selfie on the surface of the Dish.
Rufina's selfie on the surface of the Dish. Photo: R. Semovskih

Rufina’s selfie on the surface of the Dish.
Photo: R. Semovskih

The Astronomy from the Ground Up! teacher workshop is held annually in May. This year’s event had 21 educators from across Australia participate. The workshop also qualified as a Galileo Teacher Training Program workshop.