The CosmoAmautas project for equitable scientific education in Peru

The teacher training event took place for almost six days in April and May 2021. Fifty teachers were selected from 97 applicants from the three geographically diverse rural regions shown in Figure 1: the coastal region of Makegua, the Andean region of Hunin and the Amazon rainforest region of Loreto. In particular, the regions of Macegua and Hunin were chosen because of their relevance as the location of two major astronomical objects in the country: the 1-meter telescope at the Macegua Astronomical Observatory (CONIDA) and the 0.51-meter telescope (OAUNI). at the Huancayo Observatory (IGP). The six teacher training sessions were divided into different topics on all cosmic scales, including: Earth-Sun-Moon System, Solar System, Stars, Exoplanets, Galaxies and Cosmology. Each lesson (six hours) was divided into two main parts. The first half consisted of practical learning activities based on inquiries (Fig. 2), in which teachers explored the topic in small groups with the support of the teacher, approached one specific question, hypothesized the answer, tested these hypotheses through experiments and finally presented their conclusions. These activities included measuring the diameter of the Earth, comparing the scale of the solar system using rice grains, studying the parameters of stars using a homemade spectrograph, simulated search of exoplanets based on real data, measuring the rotation of our galaxy using GAIA data, and reconstructing space history using images from above. . The afternoon consisted of interactive lectures on astrophysics, science education and pedagogy, gender balance, local ancestral astronomy and climate change.

Fig. 1: Overview of CosmoAmautas’ multilevel strategy and results.
Figure 1

The right panel shows the Peruvian regions focused on CosmoAmautas 2021. The top panel shows dark Inca constellations developed by our team members (J. Ricra & J. Maguiña), depicted in a modified panoramic image of the Milky Way (ESO / S. Brunier).

Fig. 2: Inquiry-based learning activities in a virtual setting.
Figure 2

Gabriela Calistra Rivera.

Teachers and teachers of secondary schools conduct practical classes on exoplanets, spectroscopy and the early universe.

In defining CosmoAmautas ’educational strategy, two aspects were essential: multiplicity and self-sufficiency. Our teacher training program is multiplier because it covers more students through their teachers than student-only activities could do, with more than 3,000 students from rural high schools through 50 science and math teachers participating in the workshop. It is also self-sustaining, as the skills acquired by teachers are applied to future generations of students, and some of the most motivated teachers in our program train their local colleagues on their own initiative.

The COVID-19 pandemic required adapting our program to a virtual format. This requirement had several advantages, as it allowed to focus on three regions at a distance of 1,500 km across the country, and also allowed the participation of teachers who would be limited by their responsibilities for the economy. Indeed, some teachers (mostly women) attended lectures accompanied by their children. The imposed virtual education system has also identified new needs for teachers in terms of virtual learning strategy, which has prompted us to redesign our practical learning-on-demand methodology to achieve the same effect in the virtual context. This change has motivated the introduction of smaller groups of teachers who use the rooms, and we have developed low – cost and innovative digital educational tools such as astronomy – oriented educational video games designed to complement our activities (available in Spanish on our website www.cosmoamautas. org).

To ensure equal participation and involvement of teachers, we have designed and sent educational boxes across the country with all the necessary materials to be used for inquiry-based learning activities. Materials included text and a textbook that our team wrote to address the lack of accessible but up-to-date content on Spanish astronomy in high school. The book of cosmonauts7 is a unique open access resource for teachers who wish to integrate astrophysics into their classrooms, combining theoretical background with our inquiry-based learning activities.

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