West African International Summer School for Young Astronomers

In Nigeria and other countries in West Africa, Astronomy is not taught at the undergraduate level. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka is one of the very few universities in West-Africa that has a strong astronomy group and where research is done at the PhD level. The Summer school will bring together about 80 students and teachers from the West African sub region. The School will be held in conjunction with the University of Toronto. Faculty and several invited speakers from within and outside the region will present series of lectures and hands-on observational activities. The school will lead to the formation of a critical mass of enthusiastic students that can form the crux of many astronomy experts across the region.
Unlike similar schools, which focus just on scientific content, this summer school will combine lectures given by Nigerian faculty with interactive problem solving sessions and innovative, inquiry-based activities led by graduate students and postdoctoral fellow instructors from the University of Toronto. In inquiry-based teaching, students learn science concepts and skills by mimicking authentic scientific research, generally via a facilitated exploration of real data that is guided by the students’ own questions. Inquiry teaching methods have been shown by science education research to give students a deep, lasting understanding of the material covered in the school, rather than just a shallow overview, and to promote students’ scientific skills and self-identity as scientists.
The Instructors will use a practice known as “backwards design” – that is, establishing our learning goals and assessment metrics first, and then creating activities that will help students meet those goals. This means that assessment will remain a critical component throughout the activity, so that we can monitor how interventions work, both during and after the school. This year’s Astronomy Summer School is organized for undergraduate science/engineering students, teachers and postgraduate students/researchers in West Africa. This is the second year the summer school will be held. The Summer School will be organized to have two parallel sections – One section for undergraduate students and high school teachers/lecturers, while the second section will be for postgraduate students/researchers.