Ilídio André COSTA, Santa Bárbara School / Porto Planetarium - Ciência Viva Center / Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences, Portugal
Carla MORAIS, Centro de Investigação em Química da Universidade do Porto / Unidade de Ensino das Ciências / Departamento de Química e Bioquímica, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto , Portugal
Mário João MONTEIRO, Departamento de Física e Astronomia da Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto / Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciência do Espaço da Universidade do Porto , Portugal
The citizen science (CS) concept has been constantly redefined, although maintaining a common idea: the public engagement in different stages of scientific processes. However, accomplish science communication goals is one of the most common purposes of citizen science, pointed out by scientists and citizen science project managers. Besides, the association of science communication and science education practices, namely through CS projects, helps bridging the gap between research and science education, streamlining the flow of knowledge and scientific processes to the lay public.
In this synergistic relational context CoAstro: @n Astronomy Condo project emerges. It is a CS project that engaged nine primary school teachers, five astronomers, four science communicators and one mediator – the project manager, with astronomy, science communication, and science teaching experience. Such engagement directly led astronomy to more than 980 participants (students, parents and other school community elements).
One of CoAstro's goals was to understand how a CS project could fulfil the triple objective of contributing to new science, science communication and mobilizing it for the scientific education of the school community. Therefore, CoAstro was organized in two major stages: teachers’ engagement in astronomy research and into astronomy dissemination activities for the school community.
During the implementation of CoAstro, a case study was carried out. As data collection techniques, we used interviews, surveys, participant observation, and document analysis. These data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and content analysis.
As scientific research outputs, we identified the teachers' contribution as a step in the – i) determination of the composition of 57000 stars and the characterization of their brightness; ii) validation and consequent publication, in The Astronomical Journal, of the first discovery and characterization of a planet identified by Planet Hunters TESS. For teachers, results also reveal changes in attitudes and beliefs towards astronomy, gains in substantive and procedural knowledge, and educational practices quality increase. For astronomers and science communicators, CoAstro influenced research and astronomy communication and the way of structuring them. On the other hand, CoAstro reinforced, on these participants, the perception about the importance and purposes of science communication and the role of science education practices in this communication. CoAstro also allows the promotion of new personal communication skills.
Thus, CoAstro demonstrates that CS is (also) a unique method for science communication and science education. Therefore, schools are suitable environments to flow, agile and efficiently, scientific results, and processes. So, schools are tools to reach audiences with low astronomy awareness and accomplish long-lasting effects. Indeed, the CoAstro design model may be used in other contexts and sciences.