Learning that Maths is Rocket Science in Ireland

Teacher with constellation and foam rocket
9 July 2013

Before they head off on their summer holidays, fifty-one Irish teachers had the opportunity to learn about using space in the classroom.

A five-day workshop (July 1st-5th) organised by the European Space Education Office (ESERO) Ireland gathered together primary school teachers to show them how space can be used across the curriculum to develop numeracy skills in pupils.

The course was called Maths - It is Rocket Science and was developed in co-operation with both the CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory and the Armagh Planetarium. It took place simultaneously at three locations across Ireland.

The objective of the course was to assist teachers develop their students’ numeracy skills in an integrated cross-curricular way. Specifically this happens through science and geography, with an emphasis on the theme of space.

Teachers building a foam rocket

The course was developed using ESA’s International Space Station (ISS) Education Kit. The same course was run last year, in 2012, and earned overwhelmingly positive feedback from the teachers involved making it was obvious that the course had to be run again.

Stephanie O’Neill, ESERO Ireland Manager, has been delighted with the reaction of participants at all three venues of the course this year.  “Teachers have embraced the hands-on activities and all really got involved.  They are discussing how they will use the resources and share their experience of attending this course in their own classrooms, and with teacher colleagues in their schools,” she says.

Topics that have been explored include some basic astronomy grounding and a tour of the Internet’s astronomy resources. Mars proved to be a specific theme on Thursday with the teachers learning about the experiments that have been undertaken on the Red Planet. In particular they learned about cratering through a hands-on experiment.

Irish teachers hands-on-activity

They used a sand, flour and ground coffee to replicate Martian terrains, and then dropped weights into each to explore the size of the resulting crater. By tilting the terrain tray, they could investigate the different angles and speeds of impact.  They were particularly interested in the way actual craters had been formed on different planets.

The teachers also built foam rockets and paper helicopters. These activities proved popular as they supported the Energy and Forces strand of the Irish primary science curriculum and they address skills such as fair testing, predicting, recording and analysing. 

Teachers launched the rockets and calculated the flight speed by dividing the distance by time. Likewise with paper helicopters, teachers will be able to explore with their students, the way some things fall and how varying the size, the shape and the weight of the rotor blades can affect the way a helicopter spins.

Teachers participating in an astronomy lecture

The feedback from teachers is that they find the ESERO Ireland courses invaluable in their classrooms. They love the practical, hands-on nature of them, and that everything taught can be easily replicated in classrooms. Not only do these activities assist a student’s science and maths knowledge but also how to work scientifically and develop skills of enquiry such as: observing, asking questions, suggesting explanations, predicting outcomes, planning investigations or experiments to test ideas, and drawing conclusions.

“The Summer Course for teachers is a great example of using space and astronomy to promote the STEM subjects and excite both teachers and students,” says O’Neill.

For more information, please contact:

Stephanie O’Neill

Project Manager STEM Education & ESERO Ireland Manager
Tel:  +353 1 607 3014
Email: Stephanie.O'Neill @ sfi.ie

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