Associate Professor Tara Murphy from the University of Sydney in association with ‘CAASTRO in the Classroom’ is hosting a FREE live streaming event for Y10 students including a Q&A session.                        Register at http://www.caastro.org/citc





A trip to VSSEC

Our guest post was written by Rob Davie, teacher at Taylors Lake Secondary College

Promoting Science through Astronomy

Promoting an interest in the study of science is no easy task and requires every effort on our part utilising all strategies open to us which is where the Telescopes in School’s program enters the picture.

For this year I began with a OneNote file on various aspects of astronomy containing information about our telescope viewing sessions and information about stars, galaxies, cosmology and exo-planets. This information included Youtube videos of various documentaries on these subjects, the file was made available to all of our year 7 students and can be found at the following link, http://1drv.ms/1FSwtP2 or http://1drv.ms/1RfH6zF, so please feel free to look at it. If you produce your own version please share it on this blog.

Next, two separate excursions for year 7 students were organised to the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) at Strathmore Secondary College. Students were selected for the excursion if they expressed an interest in astronomy or if they felt that they might have an interest. The entire Learning Enhancement and Advancement Program (LEAP) class was taken as the material covered was more likely to appeal to these students.

Generally though, the number of students in the other classes who volunteered was around 3 to 5 although, the number could be as high as 11. There were so many students due to there being eleven classes at our school that the excursion had to be run on two separate days.

The rationale behind this visit to VSSEC was to give students some basic knowledge of stars and how rockets work to stimulate further interest in the study of astronomy and the use of the school’s telescope.

The picture below shows our students learning their cosmic address, an activity that both groups really enjoyed. It is a very well designed task and runs very well with every group I’ve ever taken.

Students working out their Cosmic Address

Students working out their Cosmic Address

The other activity involves making and launching a rocket which, as you can imagine is quite a hit with all!

Students firing their rockets

Students firing their rockets

So what did students think of the day long excursion?

Below some of the students give their own account of the day in their own words;

On Friday the 15th of March 2015 we went to the Victorian space science education centre. We will be telling you what we did and learned on this day.

Firstly we arrived at school and got on a bus to the Victorian space science education centre when we arrived we were told that we were going to play video game. We were so rapped that we got to play a video game and learn at the same time. Then we were told that we could build a rocker our rockets were called Pink lighting and unknown fire.

Secondly we got split up into two groups one built a rocket and the other got to play the video game. My group got to play the video game; once we got in to the room that we were going to play the game we were told we also had to answer questions as well. The game was a space ship vising different planets and stars there was also mini games sometimes on the way to planets.

Thirdly, lunch time!!!! After lunch we made out rockets we made it with paper plates, play doe, a coke bottle with tape and cardboard. Then we named them and fired them with only air they were so cool to watch.

Finally we watched road runner and coyote with the different forces used in the film. After that a fun day was over we hope we can go back next year and do something else.

By Thomas Sadler and Kane Lorimer 7E

On Monday the 20th of July Mr. Davie and Ms. Violari choose a couple of students to go on an excursion to Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC.) It was a great expeareance and I learnt so many new things.

My favourite part of the excursion was making a minny roket out of a plastic bottle and trying to find out how much water to put in it so when you punp it up with a bike pump it flew realy far. Some people’s rokets went so far that they landed on the roof.

I would defently recommend if you are ask to partisipat in this excursion to go and expeareance it for your self.

            By Alicia Mandato 7G

VSSEC. At the Victorian Space Science education Centre, the students learned about the different types of energy while launching rockets which were composed of plastic bottles, cardboard and sticky tape. The students learned about their universal address as well as the universe itself. They also got to play a fascinating game where they needed to explore the universe in a rocket ship, traveling to 10 stars, giving them the opportunity to learn about the Hertzprung Russell diagram. The Hertzprung Russell diagram is a graph that are used to plot the stars’ colour (temperature) and spectral class to distinguish the relationship between the two.

Written and edditted by Lisa Beres and Sandy Wu 7J

The VSSEC excursion was very interesting. First, we learned about how rockets work by making a small bottle rocket and launching it using a special pump. Some people’s rockets almost made to the 2nd floor of the VSSEC building! We could name the rockets whatever we wanted to but sadly we couldn’t keep the rockets and we had to disassemble them before we went to the next activity, which was about the stars. We played this game in which we had to choose a rocket and take a trip through space to observe stars and how hot they get. With this game we had to fill out a sheet with the details of all the stars. This game was very interesting and the excursion on a whole was one of the most fun and interesting places I have been to.

By Omar and Aryaman 7J

On Friday the 5th of May, myself and a few students from each class went to the ‘Victorian Space Science Education Centre’. We first learned about stars, their life span and the stages in their life. We also played a video game where we visit different stars around the universe and it told us the features of each star. Then after our lunch break, we each built our own air rockets, using a bottle, cardboard and a lot of tape. These rockets were launched from a pump and to make them launch we all pumped air into the bottom of the bottle and released them. We had a target at the end of the room where we aimed our rockets. The purpose of this activity was learning about energy, kinetic energy and potential energy. When we were pumping the air into the rocket, it was potential energy. When we launched the rocket, it was kinetic energy. Both of these activities were fun and very interactive. I had a really great time at the Victorian Space Science Education Centre and I left with a lot more knowledge about my universe. I recommend this excursion to students as it’s learning made fun!

By Jayde Jotevski 7E

2015 Photography Competition

The 2015 Victorian Schools Photography Competition theme is

How we see the Universe


This competition will be open to all Victorian school students and teachers.

The photographs can explore any idea of light in the two main categories. For example;

  • Light
    • Optical illusions
    • Light Technology
    • Vision
  • Astronomy
    • Planets
    • Deep Sky
    • Sunsets
    • Constellations

Photographs that demonstrate how light and optical technology is an integral part of our life, our future and in the development of society in line with the aims of the International Year of Light, or along the National Science Week theme of “Making Waves – the science of light” will be considered favourably.

High Resolution poster

High Resolution poster

Use the High Resolution poster  to promote the competition at your school.

Resources and inspiration:

Post production for images is a big part of Photography and especially Astrophotography. Here are some recommended software and tutorials:

Below are the terms and conditions for the competition:

  1. Only open to students and teachers from Victorian schools.
  2. Entries are due by 11:59pm Monday, 10th August, 2015.
  3. There is a limit of 2 entries per competitor
  4. Entry is free.
  5. Category 1: Astrophotography Possible images include planetary, deep sky, lunar, solar, constellations, atmospheric, and landscape. Cameras which may be used (but not exclusively) – DSLR with and without the telescope, CMOS or CCD cameras connected to the telescope. The use of smart phone or instant cameras is not excluded, but the image quality needs to be satisfactory (see point 9 below).
  6. Category 2: Light – Create and image your own optical illusion and demonstrate how light can trick the eye. Demonstrate how technology has made an impact on how and where we use light.
  7. Each entry must include a completed application form emailed to jacinta.den@unimelb.edu.au to accompany the image. The following information will be required.
    • Name and email address (you must use a school email)
    • School
    • Teacher contact details and teacher endorsement
    • Title
    • Equipment used, e.g. camera, telescope
    • Camera settings e.g. exposure time, ISO setting
    • Post image processing, e.g. software used, stacked image, stitched image
  8. Files must be of a high resolution for printing and display. e.g. 2-3 MB JPEG files or equivalent for A3 size. The maximum printed image will be A3.
  9. Prizes will be awarded during the Astronomy and Light Festival on Saturday 22nd August at Scienceworks and prize winners will be displayed at the Melbourne Planetarium. Finalists will be notified by the 14th August and will be invited to attend the festival.
  10. Competition winners decided by the panelists will be final. The judges reserve the right to disqualify any images that do not meet the criteria set out in these Term and Conditions.
  11. Permission to use and display the submitted images will be assumed on entry to the competition. All entries will be digitally displayed on the Telescopes in Schools and the Astronomy and Light Festival websites. All images will be duly credited to the author.

The competition is brought to you by the TiS program, University of Melbourne, the Laby Foundation and Museum Victoria, with support from CAASTRO and the Optical Society of Australia.


I was just looking at the stats for how many people have been through the program over the last 3 and 1/2 years. Let’s just say it is pretty huge and a LOT of people have been looking through our telescopes. So here are the numbers as of the beginning of this week;

Our overall attendance is currently 7256 people looking through telescopes, attending talks and doing astronomy activities.

The breakdown;

927 teachers

4688 students

772 parents

896 siblings and community members

And to the majority of these events at least 1 Astronomer has attended, totalling 303 astronomer visits.

We have also totalled 245 events since the beginning of the program.

Given that I have attended the majority of the events – where I can, it is a huge surprise that I have met, talked to and shared the night sky with so many amazing people. With a mix of new and regular participants every session, it’s hard to imagine that everyone is still so excited at every event. I guess looking at the night sky and hearing about Astronomy never gets old!

The Mathematics of the Sun

This article was written by Robert Davie from Taylors Lakes Secondary College and the samples of student work were volunteered by students from Nhat Bui’s year 8 maths class.

This program exists to encourage student interest in the natural world around them and so lead them on to the study of the sciences as they progress through school. Using the telescope to make day-time observations of the Sun has proven popular over the last couple of years with two to three hundred students viewing the Sun each time Jacinta visits us. The year seven Sun project that accompanies these observations is generally well done by students across this year level as can be seen on past posts to TiS website.

So, can the telescope be used to help make the subject of Mathematics more relevant, if not more appealing to students? It seems to me the topic on Ratio and Proportion could be made more relevant in the eyes of students by showing them how the concepts they study in class are used by astronomers to gain meaningful knowledge about our Sun. This is also an area of mathematics that students tend to find notoriously difficult.

To that end I looked around and found some material at http://spacemath.gsfc.nasa.gov/ which the following task was created and trialled with some year eight classes at this school. We are still experimenting with the task in terms of finding the right level so as to make it accessible to all students.

The task is attached below along with four examples of work submitted by students from one of our maths classes. I am hoping that contributors to this blog will suggest improvements to this task, so please feel free to try this with your classes and use the TiS website to discuss your experiences. The question is, how can we use the telescope and tasks like these to promote an interest in the study of maths and science?

Year 8 Number Assessment Task – DRAFT version 2

Students work






Social Media

I thought an explanation might be in order for why I’ve been a little absent on the website.

Two reasons really.

The first seems to be that I have hit my maximum Social Media brain quota. It appears maintaining a blog, Twitter account (@scopesinSchools) and the NEW Facebook page is all a bit too much. 🙂 But do come over and like our Facebook page for brief accounts of our Astronomy adventures and I will work on the blog and fill you in on the last six months (where did the year go?!).

The second thing that is taking up a fair swag of my time is the organisation of the Astronomy and Light Festival also with a blog, Facebook page and Twitter handle @AstroFestVic and you can follow #ALiV2015 for all of the latest news.

The Festival is part of National Science Week and the International Year of Light and the Mount Burnett Observatory and Telescopes in Schools have teamed up to put a great night on for anyone in Melbourne on August 22nd at Scienceworks. With heaps of activities for everyone, lots of science and heaps of entertainment, make sure you put that date in your diary!

Tickets go on sale very soon!

Girls and STEM

On Saturday I dragged Louise Ankers (Physics teacher from Pascoe Vale Girls College) to the last Teach Meet Melbourne for the year, this time at Scienceworks. We were treated to a run-down of the Lightning Room by Michael De Silva – always very cool, especially the Tesla coil!

Lightning Room at Scienceworks

Lightning Room at Scienceworks

I dragged Louise along because I was talking about Girls and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and I wanted to highlight the work Louise and her team have done with the students at Pascoe Vale Girls College. I have also been doing some research into the numbers of undergraduate male:female ratios and speaking to students about their experiences.

My presentation can be accessed here and I have included notes and a list of excellent resources.

TeachMeet 29th Nov2014

But my main points were as follows;

  1. We need to encourage girls to take Math and Physics, not protect them from something that is ‘too hard’
  2. We need to mentor the girls and give them role models they can relate to and respect – You can’t be what you can’t see.
  3. We need to watch our own unconscious gender bias as it is a rare person (male AND female) that doesn’t have some about of unconscious bias
  4. We need to stop sending the messages that girls can’t do math and science – whether explicitly or through our bias
  5. We need to start early – around the age of 8 is when the stereotypical white elderly male with the crazy hair becomes the image of a typical scientist
  6. We need to work on this all through school and continue into the workplace as academia and industry have their own issues

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this study (other than the declining numbers) is how quickly and early girls truly believe that they aren’t as good at math and science as boys, that science is a boy thing. As I talk to the students who plan to continue and the women who have an established career, many often site the reason they stuck with physics is because they want to prove those naysayers wrong. The decision to study and work in science shouldn’t be a test of strength or a war of wills, it should be about following your passion and curiosity about the world around us.

When I finished up my talk, I also threw out a couple of thoughts which were both met with great enthusiasm. So some food for thought;

  • Let’s talk about STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS and Maths (watch out for my next post…)
  • What about the other end of the scale? Boys doing history, design, hairdressing and as the next speaker @charte (who spoke about Emerging Science Victoria among other things) asked ‘What about 17th century French History??’

I have also been talking with @thirddegreeblog about the study and an article appeared in The Age on the same weekend! We hope to bring you more information as the study unfolds and as more data and stories come to light.

If you haven’t been to a Teach Meet, head along next year – they are popping up all over the world. They are full of amazing ideas for broadening the classroom experience. We were introduced to Think Ahead exhibit at Scienceworks by @ictedservices, a Twitter Tour by @ccoffa, an online school program, Our Common Future, from @Sahra_Josephine, a mentoring program for developers and educators called Code the Future by @BecSpink and the very cool Sphero that went straight on to everyone’s Christmas list thanks to @mrpbps. There heaps of other talks so definitely have a look at #tmmelb for the links, presentations, etc and there was rumour of a Storify too. Thanks to @ccoffa, here is the Storify.

October 8th Lunar Eclipse

The second Lunar Eclipse for the year and I am very excited to bring you some of the images and stories from the TiS schools that were involved.

At Pascoe Vale Girls College, the girls from the Rephract group had organised a big community event with a special guest speaker, Dr Pamela Gay or Star Stryder, a planetary scientist from the USA, hosted by Peter Lake of iTelescope. Then there was to be lots of observing of the eclipse afterwards over a coffee and biscuit.

Wednesday October 8th saw Melbournians treated to a second Lunar Eclipse for 2014. Here at Pascoe Vale Girls, the Telescope group – Rephract – hosted a special Star Party to celebrate the event. Over 100 people attended.

Myself, Dr Pamela Gay and Peter Lake waiting for the clouds to clear at Pascoe Vale Girls College.

Myself, Dr Pamela Gay and Peter Lake waiting for the clouds to clear at Pascoe Vale Girls College.

We were lucky enough to host Dr Pamela Gay from Southern Illinois University who came and spoke with us about her work in mapping the moon in high resolution and her intense passion for astronomy.

Congratulations to our newly inducted members of our Rephract group who received their telescope licence and Rephract badges on the night: Rameen Ali (8H), Vaneeza Ali (Grade 5 Westbreen Primary School), Maryam El-Ali (10C), Dayna Foote (12H), Saumaya Mall (10H), Mehrnaz Mirmoayedi (11E), Emily Reynolds (12A), Katie Tran (12J) and Olivia White (9G).

The girls at Pascoe Vale Girls College receiving their telescope licence.

The girls at Pascoe Vale Girls College receiving their telescope licence.

Sadly the weather was against us for the most part on the evening with lots of cloud cover. That didn’t stop Dr Gay talking to everyone and inspiring us about astronomy and science! Thankfully, we had glimpses of the moon through the clouds during the evening which caused much cheering!

Eclipsed moon taken at Pascoe Vale Girls College.

Eclipsed moon taken at Pascoe Vale Girls College.

Thank you to all of the students, staff, former students (and staff), parents, friends and members of the community who joined us on the evening. It certainly made it a special night! Thank you to the members of the science faculty who helped in the organisation of the evening.

Lastly, thank you to all the members of Rephract, who helped plan, organise and host the evening. We couldn’t have had such a successful event without all your work.

Stay tuned for the next Telescopes in Schools Event!

Miss Louise Ankers, Mrs Anne O’Keefe and Mr Glen Ivers

Images taken by Emily Reynolds Yr 12, Madhooshi Senarath (PVGC and Rephract Alumni)

At Gisborne Secondary College another community event was organised and with clearer skies, some amazing Astrophotography was undertaken.

Dale Barry and student getting ready for the Lunar Eclipse at Gisborne Secondary College.

Dale Barry and student getting ready for the Lunar Eclipse at Gisborne Secondary College.

On Wednesday 8th October the weather was threatening as the staff at Gisborne Secondary College moved their two telescopes outside in position for a spring lunar eclipse. Ran and an overcast sky did not promise for a brilliant sky show for all that attended! After a quick view of the moon through patchy clouds, people moved inside to view some movie clips on lunar eclipses and grab a hot drink. About 8:45pm the sky miraculously cleared and observers witnessed the Earth’s shadow creep slowly over the moon’s surface. One telescope was dedicated for digital imaging, while the other, a 300mm ‘Meade’ computerised scope provided by Melbourne University’s astrophysics department, delivered excellent views of the event. All budding astronomers that attended the night were rewarded by their patience and enthusiasm. The night concluded at 11:25pm with almost 300 images being taken by the people that attended.

Dale Barry

The Lunar Eclipse seen at Gisborne. Images taken by Dale Barry through 8" telescope with DSLR camera.

The Lunar Eclipse seen at Gisborne. Images taken by Dale Barry through 8″ telescope with DSLR camera.

Astronomy Professional Development

Another quick post to let you know about an exciting Astronomy Teacher Professional Development program happening on October 10, 2014 at ScienceworksMuseum Victoria.

The day has been organised by iTelescope with Scienceworks and will have the amazing Dr Pamela Gay running two workshops on how you can work even more Astronomy into your curriculum. Pamela, or @starstryder, is a renowned Astronomer and science communicator. She has her blog and is on the podcast, ‘Astronomy cast‘ with Fraser Cain of Universe Today. I love listening the podcast on my way home after a late night observing. She is also the Project Director of CosmoQuest, an education and citizen science program. The proceeds of the PD will go back into CosmoQuest.

Also on the day, you will get the opportunity to hear from the awesome University of Melbourne astrophysicist and TiS volunteer, Dr Katie Mack (@astrokatie), as we do some solar viewing, find out about the Scienceworks programs and iTelescope.net to do some real Astronomy with your classes.

Details can be found at iTelescope, a flier can be passed around and register here.

Hope you can make it!

Thomastown, Milo and raisin toast

Looking at planetarium apps with Principal Leonie White.

Looking at planetarium apps with Principal Leonie White.

Thomastown Secondary College have an all-in attitude at the school. Certainly the TiS program is been attended by the Principal and Assistant Principal on a regular basis. The lab technician, groundsman and librarian always come out for a look through the telescope and we already have a serious group of students keen to learn how to use the telescope and look at the night sky in general. Of course, the science teachers are always on board, lead by Leonie, who is the STEM coordinator. STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics and part of Leonie’s role is to seek out STEM enrichment activities for students to do – fantastic!

Space has taken over the library too! Go space!

Space has taken over the library too! Go space!

So a typical night at Thomastown SC includes teachers and students coming from all directions to the central courtyard to get some astronomy done with enthusiasm and purpose! We have had some spectacular observing nights, certainly Saturn and the Moon were big hits,

Definitely having lots of fun.

Definitely having lots of fun.

Orion earlier in the year and Omega Centauri now. When the weather hasn’t been so favourable, we headed inside to explore some ideas on astronomy with a rather competitive quiz – (there were prizes involved).

Prizes, prizes, prizes!

Prizes, prizes, prizes!







Or the students have been learning how to use the telescope and have been doing a sensational job!

Natasha and George practicing their alignment of the telescope.

Natasha and George practicing their alignment of the telescope.



The end of the observing night has developed into a bit of a ritual. We all head inside to the staff tearoom (generally off-limits to students) and are treated to a Milo and raisin toast supper to warm us up before we head home.

Supper time at Thomastown SC - get in quick!

Supper time at Thomastown SC – get in quick!