At the end of January I visited Aberystwyth University to help give the PGCE secondary science trainee teachers there a flavour of the resources available for teaching astronomy. This is the second year the PGCE Physics tutor, David Grace, has invited me to talk to his group, and it’s been very rewarding both times.
The PGCE students are training to teach secondary science, with only a few out of a class of about 20 having a physics background. David’s primary task is to ensure that all of them are able to teach Key Stage 3 physics, whether their undergraduate degree was in physics or biology.
As well as intending to promote our Inspiring Science Education project, I went with a list of activities I wanted to show during the course of the morning session, from Star in a Box to Chromoscope. As well as that, however, a relatively amount of the time was spent on a general astronomy Q&A. After all, having spent some time in a school already, the PGCE students have heard a whole range of questions from students, some of which are really hard to answer.
Once the questions started, there was certainly no holding them back! There were questions about what a black hole is, and how to explain the expansion of the Universe, as well as questions about the Sun and planets. What’s enlightening is seeing the trainee teachers think about ways in which they would explain sometimes complex concepts to their students.