Planetarium as a Tool for General Education

Astronomy is a comprehensive science that covers physics, biology, mathematics, geography, and languages.

Studying astronomy, learners become more interested in school subjects, become more disciplined, and get more opportunities to be amazed. It develops their creative thinking, enlarges their vocabulary, boost scientific thinking, and self-expression.

The light is the tool to explore space and the most direct method is observations with the use of telescopes, analyses, and discussions.
At “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educational Complex, besides telescope observations performed with the use of NexStar 8SE model by CELESTRON from the educational complex roof or the heights of Arates, there is also the planetarium where you can travel in the night sky, reach remote constellations and galaxies.

Only in 2018, the planetarium hosted 43 groups of more than 700 students and teachers, sometimes our students’ parents and other guests. As the space in the planetarium is confined, only 15 people can take part in an observation at a time.

Other teachers of the educational objects conduct classes and perform observations here. It is highly commendable when high school students instruct young learners within the project of “Learner-teachers”. By doing so, high school students get a deeper understanding of the material and teach it at the same time. 

The planetarium is a good platform to make connections with other schools and to spread our educational programs. Different schools turn to us, especially when studying the section of astronomy included in ninth graders’ physics course book. However, in our educational complex astronomy classes are entirely conducted in the planetarium. Upon completion of the course and the projects, students have a deeper insight of the Universe.  Often watching a single film in the planetarium and having a discussion afterwards helps the student gain much more knowledge and have a much clearer vision of the structure of the universe, celestial bodies, and laws than reading the course book.  Also, by watching Landing on the Moon they get acquainted with the concept of space travel. For geography, natural science, or environment classes the movie, The Quakeis shown to impressively illustrate natural disasters.

What movies do you watch?

Expedition in the Solar System, Visions of Light, Telescopes, The Climate, The Quake, Landing on the Moon, Constellations, The Mayan Calendar are in Russian or English and young learners often need Armenian translation to facilitate understanding. We have translatedConstellations with the students of the translation group. I present the material myself when needed, or sometimes students with higher proficiency level interpret the movie for the rest of the group. Watching educational movies is not an end in itself:  it makes the knowledge on the topic more complete, vivid, and increases the impact on students, motivates them to explore and dig the topic deeper, to question and review the information they knew before. Movie screenings are often interrupted by question and answer sessions to simplify complex materials.
After each screening the plot of the movie is discussed, learners share their opinions, impressions, amazement, and excitement. The most thrilling movie for all age groups is Expedition in the Solar System, whose screening is usually accompanied with Q/A sessions especially with lower gradesFor many of them it is surprising to find out that everything has a beginning and an end in the Universe and the Sun is much bigger in size than the Earth, and there is no chance for the Sun to fall on the Earth.

What makes these movie screenings interesting for my students and me? Before each screening I instruct my students on conduct code in the planetarium. One of the main conditions is to keep silent. Often it seems to watchers that they themselves fly to space. This thought is especially appealing for young learners. While watching Expedition to the Solar System, some of them are worried if our flight is safe. The students of lower graders in our educational complex later continue the discussions of the movies watched with their class teachers Tatevik Tamazyan, Dianna Gevorgyan, Sidonia Virabyan; they later create thematic drawings, write essays on their blogs and websites. 

I am delighted to be helpful to my junior colleagues and their students. Kindergarten teachers, class teachers, and teachers of different subjects turn to me with various questions that may seem hard for them to grasp, and try to clarify the issues that worry them. Therefore, I always try to keep myself updated with scientific news and innovations, especially with Stephen Hawking’s works.

 

The English translation by Shushan Mikoyan
 

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