The beauty of Earth and Spacebut also of the scientific knowledge surrounding the discovery of their secrets he tries to convey National Observatory of Athens to students of the country’s remote islands, who do not often have the opportunity to get to know the scientific activities of research organizations up close.

Middle and High School students from Kasos, Rhodes, Tilos, Astypalaia, Kos, Kalymnos, Leros, Lipsi and Patmos connect online from their school classrooms with Observatory researchers and are introduced to the magic of Astronomy.

This is the Astronomy program for secondary school students in critical areas with the title “UniversALL”, organized by the National Observatory of Athens, in the context of its efforts to expand outreach and science dissemination activities. The program is implemented for the first year as a pilot in 18 schools from nine islands of the Dodecanese Region. It is attended by 456 students and 44 teachers.

The program has started with a series of online meetings held after school. During the webinars, not only lectures are presented, but also relevant experiments, astronomical observations and live links to the Observatory’s research telescopes and other research infrastructure.

In the first lessons, the students took a mental tour of the history of Astronomy and the first discoveries, from Thales of Miletus, who in the 7th century BC was the first to realize that the world is explained by observation and logic, and then all the great thinkers and scientists who put their own little stone in the understanding of the Universe, such as Aristotle, Aristarchus the Samian and Claudius Ptolemy, up to Johannes Kepler and the three laws he formulated.

“Man is “infected” with the germ of curiosity. He is fascinated and amazed by all the phenomena that happen around him and are perceived by his senses. The starry sky could not be missing from this process”, the astrophysicist of the National Observatory of Athens explained to the studentsAlexandros Chiotellis.

As he comes from an arid island, Lesvos, and has experience as a physics teacher in secondary education, Mr. Chiotellis had the idea of ​​bringing arid island students in contact with Astronomy. There were previous actions by the Observatory to introduce prisoners to Astronomy, while in the new year seminars for Roma and for blind and deaf students are also planned.

“The National Observatory of Athens has an important axis of its activities, the dissemination of science, and we want it to reach groups of our society that do not have equal access,” explains Mr. Chiotellis, who is scientifically responsible for the program, to APE-MPE , under the coordination of the President of the Observatory, Manoli Pleiani.

In the first online courses that he presented, Mr. Chiotellis did not content himself with a sterile presentation of the first discoveries, but used imaginative ways and animations to arouse the students’ interest and to explain the phenomena to them, from a pizza that he compared to our Solar System to an ant that traversed the orbit of the planets.

astronomy students

“Students should learn the beauty of knowledge, not in the light of exams, exercises and grades. The problem is, because I’ve worked as a Physicist, that we screw up Physics, make it as ugly as possible, and serve it up to students essentially as a grid of difficult, intractable exercises that have nothing to do with reality, and it makes perfect sense for kids not to they find it attractive. When you tell them the same thing with a different story by putting beautiful images, making a storyline, releasing it from the narrow corset of the examination system, you arouse their interest and the need to work on it”, he emphasizes. In this direction, he adds, “it is a shame that Astronomy is absent from the curriculum, since, precisely because it has such an attractive subject, it can be a vehicle and springboard for students to turn to the positive sciences”.

Viktoras, a student of the 1st grade at the Leipson High School, is among the children attending the classes and describes to APE-MPE that he decided to take part “because I have always wanted to know what the world is like outside the Earth and how the Earth was created Earth”.

The science teacher at the Soronis High School in Rhodes, Anastasios Nicolaidis, says for his part, “how important is the opportunity given to the students to come into contact with issues related to Space, our planet and its place in Space. I think that such actions should be carried out first of all for the good of the students, but also of the teachers”.

Other researchers from the National Observatory of Athens will also participate in the seminars, who will present a wide range of scientific objects related to Astronomy. Alongside the seminars, students prepare their own papers on relevant subjects under the supervision of their professors and the Observatory’s researchers. Students have the opportunity to decide who to implement the assignments, from bibliographic assignments to constructions or artistic illustrations. They will present the work to researchers and local communities in the spring, upon completion of the program. In addition, as part of the program, the students will also visit the facilities of the National Observatory of Athens.

Through this program, Alexandros Chiotellis has set himself the goal of transmitting two important messages to the children: “First, that the world is very beautiful and the battle of knowledge to understand it is equally a wonderful journey. The second is what scientific methodology means, what is the axis a scientist thinks about, observation, method, conclusion and evaluation based on experiment. And that it is not the right scientist who found the right thing, but the one who thought methodically and took it a little further. We have learned to live in a society where you should embrace only universal, absolute, crystal truths and certainties and this is completely against scientific thinking. Science can help our society in the way of thinking, whether you end up being a physicist or an astrophysicist or whatever.”