Universe Awareness, a programme endorsed by the IAU that uses astronomy to inspire and educate very young children around the world, has been recognised for its educational value by Science Magazine.
Universe Awareness (UNAWE) is the recipient of the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) award, introduced by Science Magazine as a means to showcase the best educational resources that are available on the internet and bring them to a wider audience.
UNAWE is an international programme that uses the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to inspire children aged 4–10 years, particularly those from an underprivileged background. Through astronomy, it aims to cultivate a sense of perspective, foster global citizenship and stimulate interest in science at a crucial age in a child’s development. “In all of its activities, UNAWE pays close attention to local cultures to help engage with young children and to meet the specific educational needs of the country,” says Carolina Ödman-Govender, International Project Manager for UNAWE between 2005 and 2010.
This vision makes UNAWE a key component of the IAU Strategic Plan, Astronomy for the Developing World, which is an ambitious blueprint for the next decade that uses astronomy as a tool for international development and building global capacity.
The UNAWE website hosts a vast repository of educational materials that are produced by the programme’s network of almost 500 educators and astronomers from 40 countries. The popularity of UNAWE educational activities across the globe, the number and diversity of contributing educators and available languages make it one of the most international networks of astronomy educators and volunteers worldwide.
The prize is shared with Deadly Moons, a one-hour interactive drawing workshop that teaches children aged 4–12 years about the Moon and the other exotic moons in our Solar System, also part of the UNAWE programme. “We are delighted to share this prize with Deadly Moons, which is also one of the most popular activities contributed to the UNAWE website,” Carolina Ödman-Govender adds.
UNAWE and Deadly Moons have been working together since 2008. According to the current UNAWE International Project Manager, Pedro Russo, “Deadly Moons and other educational materials are uploaded regularly to the UNAWE website, so that they can be distributed, adapted and translated for use in other countries.”
You can find out more about UNAWE and Deadly Moons in the SPORE essay published 26 August 2011 online and in Science Magazine.
The IAU is an international astronomical organisation of about 10 000 professional astronomers from 90 countries. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and surface features on them.
UNAWE was initiated by IAU Vice President George Miley in 2005 with support from the Royal Netherlands Academy and the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. It was selected as a Cornerstone project of the successful UN-ratified IAU/UNESCO International Year of Astronomy in 2009 (IYA2009). During IYA2009, thousands of UNAWE activities were organised in more than 40 countries reaching hundreds of thousands of children.
Earlier this year, the European Union granted 1.9 million euros to the UNAWE project designed to deliver a three-year Universe Awareness programme in six countries: Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland).
UNAWE International Project Manager
Leiden Observatory, the Netherlands
Tel: +31 71 527 8419
UNAWE Project Board Member
Tel: +27 8345 20222
Raquel Yumi Shida
IAU Deputy Press Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6177