Help engage female students in STEM

by Astronomers Without Borders
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    $1,190 with 8 backers
    on July 12, 2017
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Creating an interactive and immersive learning environment for female students through the construction of a planetarium and solar viewings.

  Education, Astronomy

Astronomers Without Borders is running a global fundraising project called the BIG (Big Impact Giving) Project. The aim of this program is to help organisations and clubs raise funds to help them achieve their astronomy-related goals. These are microfunding campaigns, where the value is limited to a maximum of $500 USD (plus fees and charges). For a lot of clubs a small amount of money can make a big difference.

The following is by Murray Henstock, science teacher at Wiley Park Girls High School in New South Wales, Australia.


Current donations have made this project a reality and now we have the following stretch goals to make it a high quality enduring astronomical resource for the community. 

$690 we can include postage

$835 we can upgrade internal surface to reflective white nylon for better viewing

$1025 we can add in plastic weatherproof cover

$1330 we can upgrade external plastic to canvas

What we need:

Funds to purchase supplies to build our own portable planetarium and a classroom set of solar glasses.

Why we need it:

In 2016 we attempted to make a cardboard planetarium that would fit a class of students inside to become immersed in a learning environment that could not only explore astronomy but also other immersive environments that could be projected. We attempted to make the planetarium out of recycled cardboard. After 6 months of hard work and many student and teacher volunteer hours and 3 attempts, we succeeded, only to have the recycled cardboard fail and the whole piece collapse shortly after completion. Completing the planetarium was a step to show what could be done with perseverance and determination and involved a very large STEM component as well as problem solving, leadership and teamwork.

Following the failure of our cardboard planetarium the next phase is to source funds to purchase a dome kit and reflective material to make a planetarium that could be assembled or disassembled and packed away as required. This will allow our learning spaces to become much more interactive and immersive and provide not just a daytime school resource but one we can offer out to the community through regular Astronomy Nights held at the school.

A classroom set of solar glasses would allow an entire class to participate in a day time viewing which opens up more opportunities for student engagement.

Engaging our students in STEM is a way to open up their world and that of their friends, family and local community.

Who we are:

Wiley Park Girls High is located in South Western Sydney, Australia. The school serves a low socioeconomic region and has a very diverse population with 97% of students from non-english speaking backgrounds, including a high population of refugees.

In 2013 we held a community astronomy night and had over 150 friends, family and guests arrive. We were supported by Sutherland Astronomical Society and "Ice In Space" Astronomical Forum who contributed astronomers and telescopes for the night. The evening was a success in that it brought the school and community together encouraging students who felt no engagement in the sciences to see it impact. As a result interest and student engagement increased as well as family and community involvement in the school. The following year we repeated the evening and saw another 150+ visitors attend with the addition of guest speakers in the field such as Dr Simon O’Toole.

The opportunities to link the school to community through an astronomy focus has been proven to be a success in generating interest in the sciences as well as generating a sense of wonder amongst the community that encourages further learning. We had parents and students who had never seen the planets before and we were even lucky enough to show them a glimpse at another galaxy.

Since that time we have sought ways to increase the connection with not just the community but also the local primary schools. It is our aim to develop a centre of learning within the school that can eventually become a resource for the students, their families, members of the community, local primary schools and other high schools in the area.

WPGH is located in South Western Sydney with students from a very wide range of diverse backgrounds and circumstance. Many are considered low socio-economic and many are from non-english speaking backgrounds. Some are refugees and some have had little prior formal education. Literacy and an interest in the sciences is often low and these programs are an attempt to engage both students and the community in developing STEM skills and instilling a love of learning, collaborative and critical thinking skills.


  Budget Breakdown

Planetarium Supplies
5m Geodesic Dome Kit - $400UAD = $301

Opaque reflective coating for interior of dome = $150

Solar Glasses 30x$0.90 + $22 = $49

Fiat Physica fees and AWB expenses = $90

Total = $590


  Risks and Challenges

Possible risks include the dome not working as expected - some trial and error will be required in the construction and to get the correct material for the interior. This is a challenge the students will work to overcome, and is part of their learning process.



Help engage female students in STEM

Creating an interactive and immersive learning environment for female students through the construction of a planetarium and solar viewings.