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Inspiring very young children with the beautiful Universe
24 August 2006, Prague

A new educational initiative in astronomy was officially launched at a press briefing at the General Assembly on Tuesday. Universe Awareness (UNAWE) is an international project that will expose underprivileged young children, aged between 4 and 10 years, to the inspirational aspects of astronomy. The team overseeing the development of UNAWE has representatives from 15 countries on 5 continents.

By conveying a feeling for the vastness and beauty of the Universe UNAWE aims to broaden the minds of the children, to enhance their understanding of the world and to demonstrate the power of rational thought." said George Miley, who pioneered the UNAWE concept together with Claus Madsen of ESO. 

The rationale of Universe Awareness is that exposing children to the beautiful images captured by modern telescopes and the vastness of the Universe inferred by modern science will help give them a balanced perspective on the world. 

"Wonderment of the night sky has been a source of inspiration throughout the history of humankind. Astronomy has deep roots in most civilizations and as such can help us understand our identity and diversity." said Dr Carolina Ödman, UNAWE project manager. 

Successful UNAWE pilot projects were carried out in Venezuela and Tunisia during 2006. The full UNAWE programme will be implemented in 2009 (planned to be the International Year of Astronomy), in at least 4 emerging countries and 4 disadvantaged regions of EU member states. UNAWE has been endorsed by distinguished scientists and international personalities, including 3 Nobel Prize winners. 

"Astronomy involves natural sciences and technology and has strong links to philosophy, the arts and human development. Because of its multi-facetted nature, astronomy is a unique discipline for exciting young children and imbuing them with an appreciation of both science and culture." said Claus Madsen from ESO, the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, which is supporting UNAWE. 

"Knowledge about the Universe should be a birthright of all children, but access to this knowledge is most difficult in disadvantaged regions and communities throughout the world." said Dr Cecilia Scorza de Appl, Chair of the UNAWE Education sub-committee. 

At present UNAWE has contacts, collaborators and contributors in the following countries: Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Venezuela.

 

For further information:

Dr. Carolina Ödman

Leiden Observatory,

NL ? 2333 CA Leiden,

The Netherlands

email: [email protected]


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