Bringing space to the French classroom: The Paris Observatory’s “godparent” projects
Wim van Driel
Paris Observatory
In order to help bring space to the classroom in France, Paris Observatory has created its so-called “godparent” (parrainage) system. School teachers, from kindergarten to high school level, who want to do a class project on a subject that involves astronomy, may ask for a professional astronomer “godparent” to assist them. Astronomer and teacher work together on a project throughout the school year – from the initial idea, often vaguely defined by the teacher, to its conclusion, which may take the form of an exhibition in school. The godparent helps define the project, visits the class to give presentations and answer questions, a process that continues through e-mail/skype, and may organize telescope observations and a visit to one of the Paris Observatory sites, tailored to the project. The Observatory organizes training for the godparents, puts a number of small telescopes and sample talks at their disposal and stocks “goodies” to hand out to the children. Astronomers are obliged to spend one third of their time on teaching and can volunteer for godparent projects, each of which amounts to 7.5% (22 working hours) of their total teaching charge. This year, 50 astronomers are involved in a record number of 130 school projects all over France.