The international project and accelerator Dark Skies Rangers (DSR) aims to create a network of OSOS schools that will combat the problem of light pollution, by raising awareness among the educational community and local authorities to change lighting systems and preserve the night sky.
Our planet, when seen from above during night time, exhibits a large number of lit areas. For example, we can easily identify the areas of greater population density in Iberian Peninsula when it is seen from the International Space Station during night time (see figure bellow). Those light patches also identify areas of great light pollution.
Iberian Peninsula as seen from space (source: NASA).
Light pollution is caused by outdoor lighting that light up upwards and/or sideways, making the night sky brighter, wasting energy and money, contributing to climate change, affecting wildlife, ecosystems and people’s quality of life, and preventing astronomical observations.
This accelerator focus on the problematic of light pollution, fighting bad quality outdoor lighting and wasting of energy, decreasing public costs with lighting, while at the same time promoting an increase on the quality of life both for humans and the wildlife, increasing the security on the local communities and give the night sky back to the populations. These goals will allow to increase the attention to science by both students and local community, to stimulate teachers to adopt innovative teaching practices based on Inquiry-based learning (IBL) – which have been proven to be highly effective in science education (see here and here, for example) – to generate and increase civic awareness, and to stimulate a proactive and responsible participation in the decisions of the community. DSR will, therefore, promote the enrichment and renewal of the science curriculum and others subjects, such as civic classes and philosophy.
You can start introducing the problem under question to your students by presenting night time images of places where light pollution is identifiable, such as images of the Earth as seen from space, photos of your city (or a nearby one). If appropriate, photographs of the school taken during the night can also be presented, highlighting the public illumination. When students start to understand what is light pollution and how artificial light is commonly misused, you can propose them to create teams to address this problematic in their region and try to find solutions for it.
In this activity, students will naturally interact with different stakeholders, such as their families, local policy makers (local government, municipality, departments responsible for public lighting, energy companies, etc.), experts in lighting systems (researchers from nearby universities or research institutes), companies producing lighting technologies, and local communities, just to name a few. Like so, students will have the opportunity to get awareness about the problematic of light pollution, to learn directly with experts about lighting systems (both indoor and outdoor), and to discuss and propose strategies to policy makers in order to improve the public illumination in their region.
The conclusions of the projects will then be presented to the school community and all stakeholders involved in the activity (family, local community, experts, municipality). We suggest that the local administration be invited to a public session, where students will present the solutions and will invite decision makers to implement them. It is natural that several projects and corresponding solutions will be developed in the framework of the this activity (one per team/group).
In short, in this activity we propose:
- To raise awareness among the students to the theme of light pollution;
- To motivate students to investigate about light pollution using all resources available (Internet, consulting experts on the matter, etc.);
- To let them develop research projects and find solutions for the problems they will identify;
- To present their strategies to tackle the identified problems to all stakeholders.
Realise that the night sky is not always accessible for observations even when there are no clouds;
Understand the concepts of intensity of light and light pollution;
Realise that most of the outdoor lighting systems are not properly designed, producing bad lighting;
Understand the concept of acceptable and unacceptable outdoor lighting;
Understand the impact of outdoor lighting on energy resources, on public costs and on the local and national economy, on security, on the quality of living of people and wildlife, and on astronomical observations;
Investigate alternative outdoor lighting systems;
Development of 21st century skills, such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, creativity, tolerance, and global citizenship awareness;
The whole process will be student centred, with the integration of a STEAM approach.
One of the key aspects of OSOS is the inclusion of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) principles (more information at RRI-Tools.eu). This is how this Accelerator fits into the RRI model:
Students will share information and results with stakeholders, establishing a lasting, two-way relationship with the aim of ensuring better project results.
That is, students will research about good quality lighting, and then will investigate how is illumination done in the environments they use on a daily basis, whether they are private or public. By exchanging information with stakeholders in their ommunity at various stages, such as local government and experts (chairman of the parish council, councillors, architects, researchers, just to name a few), they will debate with them on how to proceed in the project, tackle the issues they found, and thus improve the illumination of the place where they live.
Students will be able to improve the lighting of several places. Doing so, they can involve different stakeholders in each of the phases of the project - such as their parents/guardians, local government, research institutes, and others - in a partnership aiming at finding innovative solutions for the problems addressed by this accelerator.
That is, parents/guardians will help their children to investigate the public lighting of their neighborhoods, local experts can give guidance, support and feedback to students during their research, and local government can evaluate the progress made by students throughout the project.
Students can work in gender-balanced teams when carrying out their research, and will be able to contact female stakeholders with a scientific career during the project.
That is, experts involved can be both men and women, in order to show the female perspective of the scientific profession. Female models in science can be a reference for students.
Science will be used in this activity to solve real problems affecting the community, by improving the illumination of both public and private spaces, and therefore contribute positively to the community as a whole. This can help students become better citizens with the help of science.
That is, science subjects, such as physics and mathematics, are used by students to learn about the types of lights, compare them, perform measurements, and to propose effective solutions to improve the lighting environment, according to the space, location, and its specifications.
Students will reflect on the impacts of our actions as a society on the planet. They will share responsibility while moving forward with the project, in compliance with the research integrity and the social values of science.
That is, students will promote the installation or the improvement of the illumination of public and private spaces through a scientific process, so that the community will benefit directly from the impact of the project. They will reflect on the environmental and societal impact of their project, and they will use what they have learnt to disseminate the need to improve the lighting of areas occupied by humankind (specially urban areas), including both private and public spaces.
All materials will be shared open and freely on the Internet, so that they can be re-used by other people interested in the topic. Students can also use social media and/or other content platforms to disseminate their findings.
That is, students can use or develop online platforms for the project, such as their own blog, where they can share publicly, openly, and freely their resources, materials, progress, and results.
Available partnerships opportunities
- Identify some constellations and their stars, measure the apparent brightnesses of the latter and compare them to reference values;
- Identify examples of good and bad outdoor lighting, measuring the illuminance of the neighbourhood and of special spots;
- Get appointments with policy makers (members of local government, etc.);
- Analyse the impact of light pollution in the local flora and fauna;
- Awareness about outdoor and indoor illumination malpractices.
- Assist their children in the outdoor activities;
- Assist their children in getting meetings with policy makers and other relevant stakeholders;
- Participate in the Science Café sessions organised by their children and teacher.
- Provide students with the necessary background and information, and help them preparing and mastering the tool snecessary to carry out the outdoor activities;
- Guide students preparing the interviews with policy makers and other stakeholders;
- Guide students to organise Science Café sessions and exhibitions.
- Develop and advertise more efficient outdoor lighting systems;
- Create awareness of the impact of existing malpractices.
It is expected the teacher and the school to adapt this activity according to the characteristics of the milieu.