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Enacted Science And Mathematics Education Through Astronomy

ESMEA is a research project coordinated by LDAR, that focuses on an embodied teaching method using a “Human Orrery”. Through the attractiveness of astronomy for both boys and girls and the innovative potential of enaction, the Human Orrery allows learners to enhance their scientific knowledge (physics and mathematics) and their scientific awareness as citizens, two main aspects of SWAFS (Science With And For Society). 

More information about the Human Orrery (in french) may be found on this page


Human Orrery

An Orrery is a mechanical device illustrating the circular orbits of the planets. On a human Orrery, the orbits of planets and comets are drawn at a human scale allowing movements in the Solar System to be enacted by the learners. Both constructing and using a Human Orrery promote an embodied and interdisciplinary (STEM) approach of scientific notions usually perceived as abstract concepts by students and teachers. Astronomy provides a highly motivating context for learners to develop observational skills, discover methods of scientific enquiry, and explore some of the fundamental laws of physics and concepts of mathematics in both an attractive and meaningful way. 

Theoretical background and methods

At the heart of research is the question of how learners’ conceptions are transformed to increasingly approximate conceptions shared by scientists. Our expertise in science and mathematics education will be used to design learning sequences that account for known conceptual obstacles to this transformation. We will refer to the Activity Theory as developed currently in mathematics education to study those sequences.
Our ambition is to serve the co-emergence of a coherent theoretical approach of enaction in mathematics and science education. Indeed, the use of a Human Orrery in education is based on the assumption that bodily perceptions help the learning of abstract concepts. Cognitive science theory of enaction as well as science and mathematics education research provide theoretical foundations and empirical results to this claim, by showing the role of gestures, signs, as well as that of artefacts, in learning processes, leading to speak of “multimodal learning”.

In a broader perspective, our approach intends to make the learning process more engaged and meaningful, and to promote an equity among scientific, literary and artistic disciplines.  Those topics are related to the notions of gender on one side and of awareness and motivation on the other side. We will examine the relationship between learning environments and students’ creative performances, as well as its correlations with motivation 

The consortium

The French consortium includes 4 laboratories:

  • LDAR, CY Cergy Paris Université (coordinator)

  • LERMA, CY Cergy Paris Université

  • CLIMAS/Bodies and environments, Université de Bordeaux

  • LINP2-APSA/neurosciences, physiologie et psychologie, Université de Nanterre

ESMEA has the ambition to create an international network, with research laboratories in 8 European and 2 non-European countries already interested or even involved in the project.

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From 10th to 12th of January, the ESMEA partners met in Paris to define the objectives, methodology and impact of the project. The first phase of the H2020 proposal was submitted the 3rd of April 2019.


Dr. Mina C. Johnson-Glenberg from Arizona State University and the Embodied Games Lab visited the LDAR/UCP for a lecture series in October. She brought  with her the Magic Leap headset to demonstrate Augmented Reality (AR). Using the topic of the Human Orrery, the images and positions of where the planets were on October 5, 2019 were superimposed wherever the viewer was standing. Dennis Bonilla from Baltu Studio  in Arizona built the content as a Beta on the Magic Leap for the ESMEA project. This was a powerful demonstration of the sorts of “a-ha” moments that AR affords learners. As the learners walk around the orbits of the planets on marked pathways and experience that physically, they can also see, digitally, where the planets are in relation to the sun at that exact moment in time.

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