Talking in schools, meeting children, and answering their questions have been absolutely enriching experiences for me. In a world full of negativity, politics, madmen, and 5G conspiracies, talking to a child about science can do so much good to anyone. It gives you a sense of excitement and optimism about the future. It reminds you that there could be an amazing future in front of us if we would want bad enough to make use of it.
You may probably tell me that the world’s problems right now won’t be solved by just talking to a kid. The truth is, most of the problems in the world could be solved if we work hard enough in educating those children. I strongly believe in the idea that any kid can do amazing things if encouraged in the right direction. I’ve seen that. Not once.
Astronomy in schools
Not necessarily. Physics and general science training would be a lot more useful. Astronomy is a specific branch of physics, so guiding students directly to astronomy could make more bad than good. There is the risk of learning the physics concepts superficially, which would be no good. However, this affirmation should be rectified.
I started studying astronomy alone. I began with Hawking’s books, going for Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson after that. And many more followed. For a few years, that is where I got most of my knowledge from. Astronomy was mostly a field I saw online and far out of sight. I couldn’t talk to people about my new passion, and when I brought up the subject to my physics teacher back then, he told me quickly that he’ll give me something to read.
That was all. I also tried reaching out to the city’s astronomical observatory, but the phone number given on the website was most probably wrong, and nobody returned my emails.
When I entered a new school, I found a teacher who helped me a lot and gave me the basics of astronomy. A year later, I founded my own organization and set up astronomy and astrophysics after-school classes. I met a few people working for another organization in Romania, and we now often team up for public events. I also got to know the observatory people now, and we organize events there too from time to time.
I met a lot of gifted children and teenagers. Some of them have decided to go for a career in astronomy, and some have said that the classes we organized were essential to them.
I don’t think astronomy should be included in the school curriculum, but I believe it should be included as an after-school class or optional subject. Many children need that, and there are a great number of activities that can introduce kids and teenagers to the field. Also, activities simulating scientific research are very much needed.
Without physics, there is not much that can be taught in astronomy. I’ll give you a simple example. Suppose we have to teach the solar system to school kids. We can tell them about the planets, their features, and how some of them were discovered. These are just the facts that we are telling.
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But to understand the working of the solar system properly, that is, to understand how the planets move around the Sun or how the solar system formed, we need to teach them Newton’s theory of gravity and then Kepler’s laws. Not to mention the differential calculus involved. So, if we have to teach astronomy properly, we need to focus on physics.
To spark a student’s interest in this subject, observational astronomy is a better way. Schools must organize evening sessions in which they arrange for a telescope and let the kids gaze at the night sky. Such events make the students curious, which they will understand and relish.
If you love astronomy…
I love interacting with all of you, and The Secrets of the Universe has done so much for me in that direction, helping me get to you. I have one wish from all of you reading this article: if you’re a kid, or teenager interested in astronomy or astrophysics, do something about it. You can totally have a career in the field, no doubt about that. Ask around, see what you can do, start studying. Join a course, ask your teachers about it, and don’t, don’t ever give up on this. Write to me about your progress if you want.
If you’re an adult, get your passion to the next level. Join, make a group of passionate and interested people, and go out together for observation nights. I’m almost sure that you can find people like you in every city, it’s just that you didn’t look hard enough. If you fail, write to me, and I’ll try to give you some advice. Finally, if you’re a parent, encourage your kids to explore all science fields and engage them in scientific conversations and activities.
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