This week, we’re at the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) winter meeting in Washington, DC. We’re encouraging astronomers to engage their students in writing Wikipedia articles for a classroom assignment. By producing Wikipedia content, students begin to learn the nuts and bolts of the online encyclopedia, which teaches them how to use it productively. The assignment engages students in an active learning environment, motivating them to document scientific knowledge that will inform the rest of the world.
Astronomy students should learn how to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of the topic because astronomy is one of the most publicly accessible sciences. Growing up, children often have telescopes and take field trips to planetariums, or they join their peers and family in watching meteor showers or eclipses. When these momentous occasions hit the news, children and adults alike want more information. Wikipedia is where they hope to find the answers they’re looking for. If Wikipedia’s articles are incomplete or written in dense, jargon-filled language, they may not find those answers.
Since attending the AAS meeting in June 2016, Wiki Education has supported several astronomy courses. Those students in our Classroom Program have expanded the coverage of Makemake, super star clusters, ram pressure, starburst regions, exozodiacal dust, and more.
This week, we hope to inspire the next group of instructors to join our efforts to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of science. If you’re attending the conference, please join us in the exhibit hall to learn how we can support you with our free suite of tools. Otherwise, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the steps here to join our program.
Image: File:Total Solar Eclipse 2017 – Corona and Earthlight (36450742744).jpg, Bernd Thaller, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.