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Wish upon a star

Ever since I was a small boy I've been fascinated by the stars, so signing up for a distance learning course in astronomy seemed a great idea. As a teacher, it's important to do something new from time to time. It helps you understand the learning process better.

Teaching technology is my day job - but when I suggested running some astronomy classes, the school was really keen. I've recently started a voluntary GCSE for Year 9s, for one hour a week after school, as part of our gifted and talented programme.

We don't have an observatory or a big powerful telescope. In any case, it would be a bit of a waste of time. Our school's right next to the A12 and you can hardly see the stars at all. But astronomy isn't just about star-gazing. It's about studying the universe as a whole. Where have we come from? Where are we going to? Those are big questions to answer and I think that's why astronomy appeals to young people.

When the holidays come round, I head off to places such as Devon or Scotland. The dark nights are a paradise; a chance to see the things I've learnt about. So far, I've done three modules of the distance learning course, but I'm hoping to complete a degree. It's likely to take about 10 years, but if there's one thing astronomy teaches you, it is that a decade is no time at all.

Ian Roberts teaches ICT and astronomy at Shenfield High School in Brentwood, Essex. He was talking to Steven Hastings.

The details

Astronomy by Distance Learning is run by the University of Central Lancashire

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