Professor George Miley, Founder, Universe Awareness
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What is Universe Awareness?
It can be challenging to motivate and inspire students, particularly when introducing abstract or complex scientific phenomena. Universe Awareness provides engaging, high-quality and easy-to-use resources for astronomy education to inspire young children.
Using an inquiry-based approach, Universe Awareness allows children to learn by doing, exploring and discovering for themselves. Educational resources are provided to schools for free, such as the Universe in a Box kit, which contains models of planets and other materials to introduce learners to the topic in a fun and relatable way. The resources are also used in informal settings such as events, summer camps and museums to inspire and enthuse young learners.
The project also supports and trains educators around the world, particularly in introducing astronomy to children from underserved communities. In the last 10 years, Universe Awareness has expanded into an international network of programmes in 63 countries worldwide, fostering a global community of educators. Support is provided in person and with online material. Teacher training sessions are specially tailored for different countries and regions, often working with local experts.
Universe Awareness fosters an international community of educators, astronomers and translators who lead education initiatives locally and support others to do the same. There are also regular international workshops where educators can come together to share their experiences of the approach and inspire others with their examples of best practice.
As well as inspiring an interest in science, Universe Awareness aims to use the perspective of astronomy to build a sense of global citizenship, kinship and acceptance in children around the world. A big part of this involves teaching children to respect and protect the fragile environment.
Learning about the cosmos develops a worldview of collective identity. Children are introduced to the planet through the Earth Ball, which shows the earth from space without any geopolitical borders and boundaries. Using this, teachers can ensure that the first things children learn about the planet are not political divides and national borders, but day and night, seasons, biology and geography.
Universe Awareness has been recognised for its educational value by Science Magazine with the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) award in 2011. The Earth Ball was awarded Best Educational Resource Award by Scientix in 2015. The Space Scoop website, Universe Awareness' astronomy news service aimed at children aged 8 and above, was selected as one of the Great Websites for Kids by the American Library Association in 2016.