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Could the beauty of the universe attract children to science?

Making science attractive to young children is one of the priorities of the EU. With this in mind, the EU has allocated a EUR 1.9 million grant to the education programme EUNAWE - a division of the Universe Awareness (UNAWE) programme - that seeks to inspire young children age...
Could the beauty of the universe attract children to science?
Making science attractive to young children is one of the priorities of the EU. With this in mind, the EU has allocated a EUR 1.9 million grant to the education programme EUNAWE - a division of the Universe Awareness (UNAWE) programme - that seeks to inspire young children aged between 4 and 10, especially disadvantaged ones, to appreciate science and technology. EUNAWE ('Building on the International Year of Astronomy: Making young children aware of the Universe') is supported under the Space Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Over a period of three years, the EUNAWE programme will fuel kids' interest in science and encourage them to become good members of the science community earlier rather than later. The money earmarked by the EU will drive UNAWE's objective to help children find astronomy as irresistible as adults do.

EUNAWE will implement the Universe Awareness programme in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and the UK. Activities planned under the project include teacher-training courses and the development of hands-on material for children.

Ultimately, EUNAWE will be instrumental in providing Europe with the next generation of engineers and scientists. Key to the programme's success is helping underprivileged children understand how important they are to the European community.

'With its combination of social, educational and scientific goals, UNAWE can play a unique role in furthering education and development,' comments Professor George Miley of Leiden University in the Netherlands, IAU's Vice President and founder and Chairman of UNAWE. 'The allocation of this grant is a recognition by the EU of the importance of UNAWE and is an important step towards realising our ambition to have an active UNAWE programme in every country in the world by 2020.'

UNAWE, backed by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), has succeeded in gaining a strong foothold in 40 countries since its launch in 2006. UNAWE members, which total nearly 500, include astronomers and educators.

This international outreach activity was established at Leiden University with support from the Royal Netherlands Academy and the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In 2009, it became a 'Cornerstone' project of the IAU/UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) International year of Astronomy (IYA2009).

In that year alone, scores of UNAWE activities were held in over 45 nations. A case in point is Venezuela, where more than 1,500 teachers and 60,000 children participated in 43 teacher-training sessions.

UNAWE is also part of 'Astronomy for the Developing World', an IAU Strategic Plan for the period 2010-2020. Under this initiative, astronomy is being used to promote education and provide skills and competences in science and technology around the globe.

The IAU Office for Astronomy Development (OAD) at the South African Astronomical Observatory is putting this plan into action. UNAWE is the first activity of the IAU Strategic Plan to obtain external funding. Sources say there is a possibility that more funding for other activities will be available as well.

'Introducing very young children to the beauty and scale of the Universe stimulates a sense of awe and wonder which plays a significant role in their development,' says Kevin Govender, newly appointed Director of OAD. 'We are delighted that the EU has decided to support the implementation of this unique programme.'

The European Parliament will hold a public event on 24 May in Brussels, Belgium to officially present the EUNAWE programme. Astronomers, educators, journalists, bloggers and astronomy enthusiasts are invited to take part.

Source: International Astronomical Union (IAU); UNAWE

Related information

Programmes

Countries (5)

  • Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, South Africa
Record Number: 33063 / Last updated on: 2011-02-11
Category: Other
Provider: EC
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