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Cosmic College Held

The advanced course of cosmic college was held for 6 days from August 7 to 12 at TSUKUBA EXPO CENTER. A total of approx. 60 children, divided into two groups of 30 each, gathered from throughout the country and stayed together in Tsukuba during the event. A variety of programs were offered including exchanges, lectures, experiments and hands-on experience. The lectures were divided into 4 main categories of Flight Science, Research Science, Space and People, and Evolving Life. Mr. Matogawa of ISAS acted as the college president, Mr. Miyazaki of All Japan Junior High School Science Education as vice president, and eager teachers from elementary and junior high schools as well as Matogawa, Kurotani and Hirabayashi from ISAS as “professors”. There were various experiments and hands-on programs such as launching hot-air balloons, making spacecrafts, visiting Tsukuba Space Center, searching for fossils, watching stars and presenting studies. In the star-watching program, we were able to spot the light of Iridium Satellite based on the orbit prediction. It had such a powerful impact on us that everyone gave a shout of joy.

The classes conducted by teachers from elementary and junior high schools were quite interesting as they were all motivated and full of vitality. I cannot put my finger on it but they, the experts who have taught children for decades, seem to have something that we, the experts of science but have little experience in teaching children, do not have, or something quite different from what we have. They give much consideration to how to organize their class. Maybe what we researchers can do in teaching children is to incorporate these teachers’ know-how and then try our best giving full play to our own strong points.

Prior to opening the college, we created a reader called “The Door to Space”, which turned out to be a fine colored piece of work with more attractive contents than the previous ones. It received favorable comments such as “it deserves more than just one use” or “it should be put on the Web site.”

The cosmic college has been held for many years, but this was the first time an advance course was held. The framework of the cosmic college is unique in that NASDA and Young Astronauts Club-Japan (YAC) take charge of planning and funds while ISAS provides ideas and lecturers. The enthusiasm of Mr. Katsumi Watanabe and Ms. Noriko Akiba of NASDA and YAC respectively was instrumental for establishing the cosmic college and Mr. Matogawa has served as president since the beginning. I think it was started by those who had younger sensitivity than anybody else and has been maintained by people of the same kind.

After the college was over, an evaluation meeting was held at NASDA, where most of the lecturers gathered and conducted active and meaningful discussions summing up the program. I felt like sitting in a teachers’ room at school. Teaching a class, visiting other teachers’ classes, observing children and participating in the evaluation meeting all offer quite an exciting experience.

January 24, 2003