New focus on science education for Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre

The Royal Observatory (Edinburgh) Trust, in partnershp with Moray House School of Education, Our Dynamic Earth's Yy Education Service and the Scottish Earth Science Education Forum, has secured a 300,000 contract from the Scottish Executive to provide Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training for science teachers in Scotland. The 12 month project will be a cornerstone of the Royal Observatory's re-focussed educational activities.

This partnership of some of Scotland's leading science and education organisations will develop teaching materials which support the Earth and Space elements of the 5-14 science curriculum. It will then train selected teachers to share these materials, and best practice in science education, with colleagues in their local area.

The project is at the heart of the Observatory's re-launch of its education and outreach work. This re-focussing will enable the Centre to provide a high quality package to schools which will include teacher training, a visit to the school by observatory staff, and a trip for pupils to the Centre. The Royal Observatory Visitor Centre will have dedicated education staff to ensure that activities continue to support the curriculum.

Meg Morrison, Education Officer for West Lothian Council said "Government reports and our own experience show that this type of training is highly valued by teachers. In particular many primary school teachers do not have a scientific background, and therefore lack confidence in this subject area. This project will help them to deliver high quality teaching in this exciting field".

The project is a key part of the Scottish Executive's national Improving Science Education (ISE) 5-14 initiative. John Richardson, Project Manager with the ISE 5-14 initiative believes that "This project has the potential to benefit up to 100,000 pupils in the South East region alone. The national ISE 5-14 programme will ensure that similar numbers of children will benefit in the same way throughout other regions in Scotland."

Dan Hillier, the Observatory's Visitor Centre Manager, said "We are delighted that this project will complement our new education package, which will support the curriculum in a unique way, offering teachers and pupils an insight into real science".

Although the Centre will no longer be open to casual visitors from the end of August, it will continue to expand and improve its activities for the general public. Children in particular will be benefit from the enhanced educational experience offered by the Observatory through group visits to the Centre. Outreach activities will be increased with the Starlab Planetarium and astronomy demonstrations regularly appearing in public places such as shopping centres and visitor attractions. The Observatory will continue to run its popular Winter Programme of public observing and lectures, and to provide free access to the whole site during its annual Open Days.


Notes

1. The Royal Observatory (Edinburgh) Trust is the lead partner of the consortium that also includes Moray House School of Education, Our Dynamic Earth and the Scottish Earth Science Education Forum. The consortium is supported by the education services of West Lothian Council, East Lothian Council, Midlothian Council and Scottish Borders Council.

2. The Improving Science Education 5-14 initiative is a partnership project with the Scottish Executive Education Department, Scottish Science Advisory Group (SSAG) representing Local Authorities, Scottish Schools Equipment Research Centre (SSERC), and Learning and Teaching Scotland. Its key objective is to address the relevant priorities identified within the HMIE report 'Improving Science 5-14' (1999) and the 'Science Strategy for Scotland' (2001). A programme for Continuing Professional Development for teachers and curriculum support materials are the two main outcomes of the project.

3. The Royal Observatory, Edinburgh comprises the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) of the University of Edinburgh and the ROE Visitor Centre.


Contacts

Dan Hillier, ROE Visitor Centre Manager
Tel: 0131 668 8406
Email: djh@roe.ac.uk

John Richardson, SSERC and ISE 5-14 Programme Manager
Tel: 0131 558 8180
Email: john@sserc.org.uk

Eleanor Gilchrist, ROE PR Officer
Tel: 0131 668 8397
Email: efg@roe.ac.uk