Apr 12

My April Blog - Astronomy to Inspire and Educate Young Children: EU Universe Awareness Workshop from 26 Mar 2012 through 30 Mar 2012 - What's Up for April 2012


Windmill in central Leiden
'The Rhine is one of  the longest rivers in Europe' this long lost primary school fact popped into my head as I ate my delicious Goats Cheese, Nuts and Honey Salad. I was sitting on the deck surrounding my hotel in Leiden, watching Dutch families enjoying the waterway. Their Sunday picnics were neatly arranged onboard, as they glided along in the welcome sunshine. 

When I arrived in Amsterdam some hours earlier I admired the fact that the train station was in the airport and then the bus station was in the train station in Leiden.  This was joined up thinking and so was the week ahead of me.  

Professor George Miley and Pedro Russo had invited me to come to Leiden University to take part in a UNAWE workshop and series of talks with other like minded individuals. It turned out to be a very eclectic mix of outreach educators all with a common affiliation too UNAWE or AWB or both. In the invited group of 59 individuals there was 26 countries represented. It was inspiring to be part of such an erudite gathering of minds and intentions.

I was particularly pleased to be asked to give a PechaKucha 20X20 presentation about my new activity for children called Action Sun. This Art/ Science activity is designed to bring the sun to Earth in real time using paper paint and energy.

A PenchaKucha talk is 20 slides with 20 seconds to speak about each slide. The slides change automatically so you have to stick to the subject and get your points across in double quick time. Twelve other PenchaKucha's followed mine from a wonderful bunch of presenters.

2.    Jaya Ramchandani (India): Universe in a box
3.    Grace Kimble (UK): Evaluation
4.    Angela Perez (Colombia): Astronomy Clubs for Children
5.    Claudio Paulo (Mozambique): Astronomy education in Mozambique
6.    Cristina Olivotto (Italy/Netherlands): Space Camps for Children
7.    Catalina Movileanu (Romania): UNAWE Romania
8.    Premysl Velek (Belgium): Scientix
9.    Eric Chisholm (Canada): Astronomy & Art projects for Children
10.  Avivah Yamany Ryadi (Indonesia): Transit of Venus 2012 and Children
11.  Thilina Heenatigala (Sri Lanka): UNAWE Sri Lanka
Mponda Sibuor (France ) Astronomy in Tanzania
13.  Carla Natário (Portugal/ Netherlands): Transit of Venus 2012 UNAWE
Project  Timor-Leste

To my delight Action Sun was very well received and I hope it will be part
of Dublin City of Science 2012 shortly.

The activity I have created  helps groups of children to  understand the sun and some of  its features safely without the need for viewing the solar disc visually.  I have developed both an outdoor and indoor version all of which will be extremely colourful and I hope satisfying to the children who will  take part in it over the next few months.

It was an honour to hear talks given by  scientists and educators who had a wealth of experience over many years in outreach. It was a joy to meet several people who were only known to me via e mail and with whom I had engaged on interesting astronomical projects. One of the most useful activities of the week  for me was talking part in the evaluation working  groups  and meeting up with some people who were very adept at that aspect of outreach education. 

One of the most uplifting experiences was seeing the vast numbers of children and young people being touched by astronomy in many ways. Professor Mark Baileys Human Orrery in Armagh, Olayinka Fagbemiro (Nigeria) with her enormous smiling childrens group in Africa. Marcello  Souza's fun energetic outreach in Brazil , Mponda Sibuor beautiful work in Tanzania all stick in my mind. It was also amazing to listen to Maria Luchetti tell her story of twenty years doing creative but very practical astronomy outreach teacher training  at the Rosa Sansat teacher training facility (via   translator Rosa Ros (Barcelona, Spain)

Before I left the University I recorded a piece to camera for Brazilain TV via Marcelo de Oliveira Souza and a piece to camera for 365 Days of Astronomy for UNAWE via  Jaya Ramchandani . The entire experience gave me new eyes to look at both myself and others. It gave me a huge respect for outreach education being carried on in Africa and other countries with many difficulties in their  everyday lives.

The group  attending the workshop week were collectively delighted when Professor George Miley founder of UNAWE  was presented with  The Order of the Lion (the Netherlands highest honour) at the official opening of the talks at the old observatory in Leiden.

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