Professional Development Part I

The next few posts include a review of some Professional Development programs I have been involved in this year and a (not exhaustive) list of PD coming up. If you have any you would like to add, please leave a comment or send me a message through the Contacts page.

The first program I will talk about is the wonderful Astronomy from the Ground Up 3-day workshop run by Rob Hollow of CSIRO at Parkes. It is run in May every year and is just a smorgasbord of great talks, resources and experiences and includes everything you would ever need to teach Astronomy, from hands-on classroom activities to holding observing sessions. You also get a tour of the Parkes Radio Telescope.

Here is a report from last year’s workshop, Rob’s post about the workshop for next year and the application form. Places are limited and fill up fast.

You can read below for my take on the workshop from last year with some great resource links thrown in;

Parkes is a country town in central New South Wales and is reknowned for at least two things. The annual Elvis festival and the Parkes radio telescope. Given that this is an astronomy based website, I will be talking about the latter, but for all those Elvis fans out there, the festival is held in January each year and the entire town is taken over by bling infested, jumpsuit wearing Elvis impersonators and apparently it is a sight to see. We also stayed at the Gracelands Motel, needless to say the town embraces this festival as much as the Elvis’ (Elvisi?) do.

So, why was I in Parkes? I was attending the 3 day Astronomy workshop held by Rob Hollow of CSIRO called Astronomy from the Ground Up which is also a certified Galileo Teacher Training Program. The workshop was held at the Parkes radio telescope facility and was attended by just over 30 astronomy educators and enthusiasts.

I drove up with Dale Barry from Gisborne Secondary College, one of our TiS host schools. We arrived on the Thursday evening, met up with some more enthusiastic Science teachers from Sacred Heart College, Kyneton and settled into the town of Parkes.

The full details of the workshop are on the Universe@CSIRO blog and you can certainly see there was a wide range of activities, speakers and participants. I wont repeat all of that here, but just wanted to tell you about some highlights and my thoughts on the workshop.

Biggest highlight and seed of all jealousy from many astro friends, was the first activity of the workshop. But first a little background…

The Parkes radio telescope is quite famous for many reasons, first radio telescope in Australia, relayed the communication to the USA during the first Moon walk and because of this, featured in a movie, The Dish, produced by the Australian Working Dog Productions company. Of course, the Parkes radio Telescope has been responsible for lots of research over the years, particularly in Pulsars and now students can study these strange stars with the Pusle@Parkes program also run by Rob.

Getting back to the movie, there is a classic Aussie scene where the technicians and scientists are playing cricket on the dish (that would be the telescope). So when I told everyone I was heading to Parkes, the biggest response was, ‘Do you have your bat and ball?’ I didn’t take my bat and ball but I did get to go up on the dish and do the ‘hayride’. This meant the telescope was lowered until the side of the dish was almost on the ground, we hopped on and then the dish rose until it was in its parked position (pointing straight up). Yes it was as cool as it sounds and no, not everyone who goes to Parkes gets to do this!!! We then got a tour through the base of the telescope looking at how it moves and the data processing and recording rooms and computers.

Ready to do the Hayride, credit - John Sarkissian

Ready to do the Hayride, credit – John Sarkissian

Looking at the ground through the Dish - it's a long way down.

Looking at the ground through the Dish – it’s a long way down.

Morning Moon above the Dish.

Morning Moon above the Dish.

A view of the Testbed Facility from under The Dish.

A view of the Testbed Facility from under The Dish.

With a start like that to a workshop, the rest was sure to be a disappointment right? Not at all, we were then treated to three days (including evenings) of interesting talks and activities all on Astronomy and Astrophysics. New programs, research conducted at the telescope, ideas for the classroom, ideas on how to teach and present science to school students.

Some links to some of the great activities follow;

Mars Rover at Powerhouse Museum

SPICE program with UWA including a remote telescope

CSIRO Parkes Visitors center

CSIRO ATNF Visitors Centre


This workshop was a fantastic opportunity to meet like minded educators who share a passion for Astronomy, to learn about the science, to do some science and see what other Astronomy education activities were available. And the food was great too!


One comment on “Professional Development Part I

  1. Pingback: Upcoming Professional Development | Telescopes in Schools

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