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How High School Students in Düsseldorf, Germany are using Slooh

“The Schloß-Gymnasium Benrath regularly offers a project course in astronomy in high school. Here, the SuS deals with current topics of astronomy and astrophysics and can also make their own observations at the school observatory and with robot telescopes from” -Dr. Lisa Zimmermann

Benzenberg observatory at Schloß-Gymnasium Benrath

The astronomy project course operates under the lead of Claudia Scheffler and Dr. Lisa Zimmermann. Ms. Scheffler is a teacher of physics, German, and history and manager of the school's observatory, and Dr. Zimmermann is affiliated with the project course and the school's observatory. Dr. Zimmermann has a PhD in astrophysics from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and is currently working as IT-Projektleader at the University Hospital in Düsseldorf. The following is an interview conducted with Dr. Zimmerman on the role that Slooh has played in the students’ studies.

When did you start using Slooh and for what ages?

“We started using Slooh in 2017, first only as a teacher with an astronomers account and then from 2018 on, we bought student accounts, so that each student could use their own account. We use Slooh mainly for the Astrophysics project course, students are between 17 and 18 years old. We are also thinking about using it for younger classes, but have not yet managed.”

What has Slooh added to your curriculum? Why does it work for your students?

“Our school has a nice observatory with the biggest telescope being a 14'' Schmidt-Cassegrain. Unfortunately, we are located in the middle of Düsseldorf, where there is a lot of surrounding light and in winter it is often cloudy. We can observe the planets beautifully when the weather is right, but for the project course we need a more reliable source for the students to take images of stellar sources, which are connected to their topics. With Slooh the students have access to a wide variety of telescopes and images. They can browse through stellar catalogs and widen their knowledge of possible targets. The quests are a nice way to give them a guide through the many possibilities Slooh offers.”

Tell me about the Project course Astrophysics Q2 in Effelsberg and the role Slooh played in that.

“At our school, students in their last school year can choose a project course in their area of interest, astronomy is one of them. The manager of the observatory, physics teacher Claudia Scheffler, and I guide this project course. The students learn basic astrophysical contents and then choose a topic, which they research intensely throughout the entire school year. In the end, they present the topic as a poster or a talk and write a short summary. Slooh is one instrument for them to get hands-on information in the area of their topics. For example, if they research neutron stars or pulsars, they want to take images of e.g. the crab nebula. This year we are also trying to incorporate the Slooh quests to encourage the students to use Slooh more. We are excited to find out how that will work out. My ties to the radio astronomical community in Germany, especially the 100m Radio Telescope in Effelsberg and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, tend to nudge the topics of our students in the direction of black hole research, stellar evolution and also the Event Horizon Telescope with its amazing images. This year, in addition, we also focus on the science and launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. We organize get-togethers with researchers from these areas and also visit the Effelsberg Telescope and are allowed to make some radio images there. This way the students get a feeling of what modern astronomical research feels like.”

Slooh is excited by The Schloß-Gymnasium Benrath’s use of our telescopes and curriculum and looks forward to hearing more about what this student research inspires.


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