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Bringing Astronomy Alive:
Student Engagement at
John Abbott College
The non-traditional approach to Introductory Astronomy at John Abbott College (Montreal, Canada) puts the depth and direction of content in the hands of the students, utilizing partnerships with RASC Montreal Centre and other Outreach Organizations to mentor students in observational techniques, provide access to amateur and professional Astronomical data, and introduce students to public outreach.
Recognizing the available access to recent discoveries and current data that best represent the direction of space sciences, each student is given an opportunity to put their stamp on the learning outcomes of the course. Combining this with non-compulsory astronomy activities with RASC – Montreal Centre allows students to embrace the field in a manner that best suits their interests and motivation, resulting in novel labs and incredibly diverse term projects, and several initiatives that have moved beyond the scope of the Introductory Astronomy Course. Other departments and courses at the college are now taking advantage of the Astronomy activities to engage their students beyond the classroom.
Prof. Karim Jaffer joined the Physics Faculty at John Abbott College (JAC) in 2006, with active projects in STEM education and pedagogical development. When Karim began teaching Introductory Astronomy in 2016 he developed a unique student-directed, just-in-time teaching approach incorporating current astronomical data, research, and including experiential learning opportunities.
In the amateur astronomy community Karim has been the Public Events Coordinator for the RASC Montreal Centre since 2016, helping re-establish the I.K.Williamson Astronomy Library and coordinating both public events and outreach activities throughout the Montreal area, cultivating partnerships with the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx), the Cosmodome, Explore Alliance, the Astronomical League, AstroRadio, CASCA and many local amateur astronomy groups, in addition to mentoring several Student Astronomy clubs and coordinating visits to local schools, guides, scouts and libraries.
Karim is a member of the National RASC Education and Public Outreach Committee and the 2021 recipient of the Charles M Good Award.