“The Embodiment of What Astronomy Could Be”: Students’ Experiences in a Cultural Cosmology Project for Astronomy Majors
10:30 - 10:45
Co-authors: Kim Coble and Kim Long Le (San Francisco State University
Providing students the opportunity to explore cultural aspects of cosmology (such as those of Indigenous, non-Western, or marginalized groups) can be a powerful way to support an inclusive environment within astronomy. We investigated the impacts of the inclusion of a cultural cosmology project in a writing-intensive, upper division course for astronomy majors at a diverse, master’s-granting university in California. Project instructions included recommendations to integrate indigenous or underrepresented knowledge sources or to challenge modern science’s dominant narratives (of largely White, western, male origins). Data sources include early semester reflective essays and multiple components of the cultural cosmology project from 57 students, plus interviews with 7 of them after the completion of the course. We used an inductive coding approach to identify themes around the “what, why, and how” of the approaches students took in their projects, as well as any challenges they made to dominant narratives. Students frequently chose a culture to study that was related to their heritage and identity, and many identified ways in which the cosmological beliefs of their selected culture(s) overlapped or aligned with current science, within the culture’s technological abilities. Students also reported that the projects helped them feel that the astronomical community would be welcoming of them even if they are not from the majority demographic and that the culture provided a model for integrating their whole selves with their scientist identities. Finally, many noted that the project strengthened their interest in cosmology specifically and that it supported goals of continued astronomy learning.