Contributed Talk - Splinter Education

Thursday, 15 September 2022, 16:15   (SFG 0140 / virtual Edu)

BEHIND THE STARS: Teaching basic astronomy using historical instruments in an interactive app

Frederik Nehm, Michael Korey
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

For centuries, basic astronomical knowledge was essential to every day life: Telling the time of day, predicting the seasons, navigating, and calculating times for prayer. However, in a development lead by artificial lighting and increasingly accurate clocks, we have largely forgotten just how much the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars can tell us using our bare eyes and a few simple – but clever – instruments. In the past 1.5 years, the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon of the Dresden Zwinger has developed an interactive app for smartphones and tablets that teaches basic astronomy to anyone from 6th grade onwards. Behind the Stars enables its users to interact with 3D-modeled historical instruments of the collection in about 20 learning segments: Telling the time by the stars with a nocturnal, finding the date using a sundial, solving complex astronomical problems using an astrolabe, and much more. Later this year, we are launching an additional „workshop mode“ that will enable teachers and astronomy mentors everywhere to use the app in a classroom setting as well as collectively observe the Sun and the Moon in guided segments. This presentation highlights our approach in making the app and shows how teaching astronomy works using it. Behind the Stars has been publicly funded and is completely free. The app is currently available in German and English.