Hello, I’m Maya Barlev, an American student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, United States of America. This summer, I have had the wonderful opportunity to intern with Universe Awareness at their headquarters in Leiden, the Netherlands. As an astrophysics major at Haverford, I was planning to do astronomy research this summer. However, after finding UNAWE’s website, I was compelled to pursue an internship, as I am especially interested in astronomy outreach and education. I was curious to know how such a large international organisation could be so successful in so many parts of the world that have very few educational resources.
Since arriving in Leiden, I have learned a lot about UNAWE’s mission, future goals, and past successes. Personally, I have been working on the following projects:
1. Designing a board game that teaches children about light and our solar system. It was a lot of fun to construct the game, both visually and in concept. Now, as this design is being adapted for production, I feel a certain pride in having developed an educational tool that maybe one day will be played around the world!
2. Writing a “How-to” guide for starting a UNAWE project in a local community. When teachers, astronomers, community leaders, museum coordinators and other people at the local level become interested in starting their own UNAWE programme, this guide will help them start activities, gather resources and reach out to others in the community. In writing the guide, I learned a lot about what it takes to start a Universe Awareness project, and I am now in awe of people who take the time to make UNAWE successful!
3. Writing web updates. When UNAWE activities take place, or reports about education and astronomy are released, I take the information we have and develop them into news updates for our website. This has been a great way to learn about the projects that are being done, and what kinds of activities have been successful for UNAWE around the world. These updates are particularly inspiring for me, as I learn about the amazing thing that adults around the world have done to teach children in need about astronomy.
4. Developing an idea for a UNAWE program in the US. With an idea from Stephanie Finnvik, fellow intern, we have been planning a UNAWE-US bus that travels from school to school and provides educational astronomy resources for children and teachers. It has been exciting to think about how UNAWE would work in my own country, and processing what challenges we might face. This idea has been submitted to a contest funded by Changemakers, an American philanthropic organization that awards prizes for good ideas that work to solve social problems. Check out our proposal . In September and October, you can vote for our project to gain funding. With your help, this project could get enough funding to come to life in the next year!
5. Outlining a poster based on , (and popularized by ), for children to learn about the scale of our Universe, and about the astronomical objects within it. It’s been challenging to think of ways to explain the logarithmic scaling of this poster to teachers and students, but I think once the poster is designed it will be a really powerful educational tool.
All in all, it has been a terrific summer, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with UNAWE. Thank you to Pedro Russo and the rest of the UNAWE International team for welcoming me and teaching me so much this summer!