Europlanet Science Congress 2022
Palacio de Congresos de Granada, Spain
18 – 23 September 2022
Europlanet Science Congress 2022
Palacio de Congresos de Granada, Spain
18 September – 23 September 2022
EPSC Abstracts
Vol. 16, EPSC2022-1154, 2022, updated on 23 Sep 2022
Europlanet Science Congress 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Astronomy: a way to interdisciplinarity in Science Teaching

Alvaro Folhas1,2
Alvaro Folhas
  • 1NUCLIO, Lisbon, Portugal (
  • 2CITEUC (Centre for Earth and Space Research of the University of Coimbra ), University of Coimbra, Portugal

Since the first decade of the 21st century, UNESCO, the European Commission, the OECD, in addition to several other international organizations, have shown great concern regarding the growing disinterest of young people in scientific areas, thus compromising the future of scientific careers (UNESCO, 1999; NRC, 1996; Report, 2007; Rocard, et al., 2007; European Commission, 2008). The speed with which the contemporary world changes requires the School to reformulate paradigms and practices, in order to respond to the challenges and needs of our times. In this context, it is urgent to promote interdisciplinary strategies, capable of developing research and critical thinking skills, and of preparing students for the demands of contemporary society. But how should we operationalize these measures for real?

The use of Astronomy in Education, considering the fascination that this area of ​​knowledge raises and the availability of natural resources, in addition to its interdisciplinary nature, presents itself as an important tool for Education. The fact that astronomy is present in our daily lives and brings together a huge variety of knowledge from different disciplinary areas (from Science to Humanities, passing through Art) opens the way to the development of a myriad of activities and educational projects aligned not only with the curricula of different disciplines, but also mobilizing several areas of knowledge and multiple scientific competences and soft-skills. It is therefore important to bring to the field good practices about hands-on and mind-on astronomy activities.

The good practices that I will share are the result of my own experience with Portuguese students, ranging from simple experiences using traditional school supplies, or materials that can be produced by the students themselves, to experiences using robotic telescopes, in which the student puts himself in the shoes of true scientists, to initiatives that promote scientific literacy in the community where the school is located.

Activities such as the Eratosthenes Project, for the determination of the Earth's perimeter, are an excellent example of an activity that, without involving costs, shows the power of human genius mobilizing knowledge of Geography, Physics, Mathematics, History, Arts, of ICT. Students are challenged to determine the size of the Earth just with a stick and knowledge. More than a challenge for the students, it is a challenge for the School in the way it will have to organize itself in a project that involves several disciplines. It will be the advent of a School that needs to reinvent itself, using greater plasticity and interdisciplinarity. The use of sunlight, and the shadows produced by it, can provide a whole variety of experiences that essentially involve concepts of Physics, Mathematics and Geography from the apparent movement of the Sun. The determination of the solar diameter by projection of sunlight through a pinhole using a DiY device that allows varying the distance from the pinhole to the target allows working mathematical concepts associated with the representation and graphical analysis of functions with an experimental basis, such as working with the concept of errors experiments and a way to correct them, something fundamental in Physics and Chemistry.

In addition to these experimental activities, School has an obligation to break down its walls and get closer to the community in which it operates, promoting events open to the public in which the scientific literacy of these communities is enriched. At Escola Secundária Marques Castilho (Águeda, Portugal) we promote an activity called “from my school I see the Universe”. Students from a secondary school class were mobilized to carry out a small project which resulted in an exhibition that was open to the public at the Municipal Library of Águeda. This activity was further enhanced with a Lecture with scientist (Dr. João Fernandes of University of Coimbra) and astronomical observation sessions with portable telescopes, both open to the community. This is another way of changing School, bringing it closer to the community and providing other forms of public service.

But School through Astronomy also enables a new approach: Teaching Science by doing Science: An example of this are the initiatives we have participated in, such as the use of robotic telescopes in real time, in the classroom. Access to the telescope constellations of the LCO/Faulkes Telescope Project network and the Liverpool Telescope of the National Schools' Observatory, or the “EU-Hands on Universe” radiotelescope network, allows a very high level of motivational and scientific experience to students. In 2016 I worked with a group of students, at a Science Club, studying the supernova SN2016adj in Centaurus A. With the collaboration of the Faulkes Telescope Project, we followed the depletion of the supernova over time, recording, measuring magnitudes and tracing light curves using SalsaJ and Excel spreadsheets. It was an unforgettable experience in which the students felt their self-esteem rise, feeling that they were discovering something still unknown. It was an unforgettable experience in which the students felt their self-esteem rise, feeling that they were discovering something still unknown. This feeling is important to bring to school. Something similar happens to students who participate in asteroid research campaigns.

A simple observation session with robotic telescopes, in real time, can represent an experience of enormous interdisciplinarity, working on concepts of Chemistry related to the electronic transitions of atomic hydrogen (HAlpha), to the structures of vision for the perception of color in Physics am Biology fields, time zones against the location of the telescope in use for Geography, CCD technology, among many other subjects that can be explored.

NUCLIO, together with several other partners, are developing activities for schools in Projects such as LaSciL, CliC-PoLiT, Open Teach, Design-CT, and others projects with teacher training to use Space and Astronomy, associating teaching methodologies by Inquiry and Project Based Learning, for schools interested in embracing new approaches that point the way to the future.

How to cite: Folhas, A.: Astronomy: a way to interdisciplinarity in Science Teaching, Europlanet Science Congress 2022, Granada, Spain, 18–23 Sep 2022, EPSC2022-1154,, 2022.

Corresponding presentation materials formerly uploaded have been withdrawn.


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