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Erasmus+ and COSPAR Collaborate to Bring Asteroid Studies into Classrooms
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Erasmus+ and COSPAR Collaborate to Bring Asteroid Studies into Classrooms
by Sophie Jenkins
Paris, France (SPX) Dec 04, 2023

The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) is taking a significant leap in space education by partnering with the Erasmus+ program, aiming to captivate the young minds of primary and secondary students through the fascinating world of asteroids, meteors, and planetary defense. The initiative, named StudenTs As plaNetary Defenders (StAnD), is a novel approach by COSPAR's Panel on Education, dedicated to developing and disseminating space-related education.

Over a period of 36 months, the StAnD program intends to introduce students to the intriguing realm of asteroids, comets, meteors, and meteorites. This initiative is not just about theoretical knowledge; it includes practical activities and experiments, making learning more dynamic and engaging. A highlight of the program is the installation of meteor detection cameras in participating schools and a kit specially designed for hunting micrometeorites. This hands-on approach allows students to trace the journey of these cosmic visitors from the depths of space right to our planet.

The program is not just an educational exercise but also holds the potential for genuine scientific discoveries, such as identifying new asteroids and meteorite falls. In support of this ambitious educational endeavor, teachers will receive substantial training and resources. This includes massive open online courses (MOOCs), summer schools, and selected online resources aimed at enhancing their ability to teach astronomy, the solar system, and space exploration. Furthermore, educators will be equipped with innovative methodologies for integrating digital content into the STEM curriculum, a critical skill in today's technology-driven educational landscape.

The training also encompasses practical skills such as the use of robotic telescopes, relevant software for planning observations, and techniques for operating and interpreting images from meteor cameras. Teachers will also learn how to collect and identify micrometeorite samples, adding a tangible element to the learning process.

The impact of StAnD is designed to be far-reaching. The program's results will be disseminated continuously, spreading the knowledge and experience gained across participants, countries, and even on an international level. This wide-ranging dissemination ensures that the benefits of the program extend beyond the immediate participants.

Spearheading this initiative is the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) in Italy, with active participation from COSPAR, based in France, along with other key partners like NUCLIO in Portugal, Ellinogermaniki Agogi in Greece, and FTP-Europlanet in Germany. This collaboration brings together a diverse array of expertise from different organizations, all committed to the advancement of space education.

At the core of these efforts is COSPAR's commitment to enhancing the professional development of educators in the field of space research. This is evident in their expanding teacher-training programs at the biennial COSPAR Scientific Assemblies and COSPAR Symposia. Additionally, partnerships with organizations like the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Global Hands-On Universe (G-HOU) further reinforce COSPAR's dedication to this cause.

COSPAR President, Professor Pascale Ehrenfreund, highlighted the significance of this initiative: "Learning about space can capture the imagination of students, leading to increased interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. This can foster a future workforce skilled in these critical areas. COSPAR is therefore engaging with teachers and educators worldwide to increase and sustain interest in STEM subjects and to encourage more young people to take up STEM careers to enter the space sector. I strongly believe we can make a difference and I look forward to following the progress of these Erasmus+ projects and to welcoming these students into the COSPAR community."

Dr. Jean-Claude Worms, the Executive Director of COSPAR, emphasized the organization's dedication to education: "COSPAR places great emphasis on educating new generations of school and university students in the space science areas, by supporting teachers through specific training programmes during COSPAR events, and by providing appropriate means to its Panel on Education. Our recent involvement with several dedicated partners in ERASMUS+ programmes is another step in that direction."

Echoing these sentiments, Dr. Rosa Doran, Chair of COSPAR's Panel on Education, expressed her belief in empowering educators to bridge the gap between research and education: "I am a believer in the empowerment of educators to bring the new generation closer to their future careers. Bringing authentic research experience to students. These young people will develop with a different mindset towards innovation, with a better understanding of the scientific method and with a good starting point on the construction of their science capital. The Panel of Education of COSPAR has the ambition to be the facilitator of such possibilities and to bring the worlds of research and education closer."

StAnD, as COSPAR's second project under the Erasmus+ umbrella, following the EXpeditionary Program for Learning Opportunities in Analog Space Exploration (EXPLORE), marks a significant stride in bringing cutting-edge space science into the realm of education, thereby nurturing the next generation of space scientists and enthusiasts.

Related Links
COSPAR Committee on Space Research
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology

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