Leiden University’s Universe Awareness educational programme (UNAWE) has launched an innovative Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. The campaign will support the efforts of UNAWE to share the educational toolkit, Universe in a Box, with underprivileged communities around the world.
Astronomy is a gateway science; it’s one of the best ways to get children engaged with science and technology subjects because it’s interesting and holistic. A 2010 ROSE survey found that for both boys and girls, space sciences and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, are some of their favourite topics to study. This, coupled with the fact that astronomy encompasses a range of historical, technological, cultural and scientific themes, makes it a perfect vehicle for sparking an early interest in the STEM subjects and inspiring the scientists and engineers of the future.
Universe in a Box is an educational kit designed to assist teachers and educators in bringing astronomy and space sciences to 4–10 year old children around the world. It was developed to meet a demand for practical, interactive, and fun resources to bring astronomy to the classroom. Pedro Russo, Universe Awareness International Project Manager explains: “The idea behind Universe Awareness is to use the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to encourage young children to have an interest in science and technology and foster their sense of global citizenship from the earliest age. The Universe in a Box is the materialisation of this idea.”
The universe for the underprivileged
Universe in a Box provides teachers and educators with over 40 practical activities as well as the materials and models required to do them. The funds raised by the campaign will be used to distribute an educational toolkit, Universe in a Box, to underprivileged communities and train primary school teachers to use it. The Kickstarter campaign runs from 9 May until 10 June and aims to raise €15,000. It is one of the first Kickstarter campaigns in the Netherlands, where the crowdfunding platform was launched last week. For more information about the campaign and to pledge, visit the Universe in a Box Kickstarter Campaign Page.
In 2011 the European Union awarded a grant of 1.9 million euros to fund a 3-year project called European Universe Awareness (EU-UNAWE), which builds on the work of Universe Awareness (UNAWE). With this grant, EU-UNAWE was implemented in six selected countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and South Africa. The Universe in a Box prototype was developed under this programme.
UNAWE is endorsed by three Nobel prize winners, UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and it is now an integral part of the IAU Strategic Plan 2010–2020, which is called Astronomy for the Developing World. This is an ambitious blueprint that aims to use astronomy to foster education and provide skills and competencies in science and technology throughout the world, particularly in developing countries.