Students from Burnaby’s Highland Elementary School visit SFU.

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Burnaby and Chilean elementary students learn astronomy together

December 03, 2015
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By Justin Wong

On Nov. 26, Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Science hosted an online videoconference on astronomy with elementary students in Burnaby and Chile.

The virtual workshop, held jointly at the Trottier Studio for Innovative Science Education at SFU’s Burnaby campus and at Chile’s Universidad de Antofagasta (UA), featured high-tech equipment that both groups of students used to learn about the night skies.

SFU physics professor Howard Trottier delivered a presentation on the Northern Hemisphere, while UA professor Christian Nitschelm spoke about the Southern Hemisphere.

After the videoconference, students from Burnaby’s Highland Elementary School were treated to a guided tour of SFU’s new Trottier Observatory.

“It was pretty fun,” says Highlands Elementary student Peyton Dan-Sonier.

“The best part was seeing the Nebula constellation. I really liked seeing the time-lapse video of the observatory construction.”

Says student Felicity Edwards, “I thought it was cool because they (students from Antofagasta International School) are on the other side of the world and studying the same things as we are. They’re so lucky because they get to see way cooler galaxies than we do!”

Juliana, an elementary student at Antofagasta International School, says that before Trottier’s presentation she had little knowledge about astronomy, but the lecture sparked an interest in learning more.

The collaboration was made possible through a unique partnership between SFU and UA. One of the main objectives of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities, signed in 2014, is to facilitate projects in astronomy education using the observatories at both campuses.

The new observatories offer virtual workshops that connect students to the northern and southern constellations. They can also deploy each others’ telescopes.

Peter Ruben, associate dean for research and advancement in sciences, says the virtual workshop was a wonderful opportunity for community groups and students to use the newly built high-tech facility.

“Similarly, community groups and schools in Chile were able to tap into the Trottier Observatory and view the Northern Hemisphere stars in addition to their own night skies. This partnership is a great example of how SFU is ‘Engaging the world’.”