Today was my first day of work at UNAWE, and I can happily say that I am very much looking forward to an excellent summer of doing things that I care a lot about.
At about 10am, Stephanie and I arrived at “Sterrewacht Leiden” which translates to “Leiden Observatory.” It’s actually not an observatory at all, but rather the Astronomy department for Leiden University. The department is HUGE with ~60 PhD students, plus numerous full-time faculty members, post-docs, and so on.
And then there’s us — the UNAWE team. Today it was only Pedro, Stephanie, and myself. The other members of the team are based in other places and come in only some days of the week. Because we’re so small, there isn’t really a set office for us. So, I was put at the desk of a woman who was away for the week. Next week, hopefully, we’ll have a more concrete place to be.
Once we settled in a little bit, I met with Pedro to discuss what work would be like over the next two months.
But first, a little about the organization: UNAWE acts primarily as a network for interested educators who want to teach young children (especially in underpriviledged areas) astronomy. UNAWE provides online activies, resources, and ideas, but does not have a set curriculum or structure. They also have an ideology geared towards greater ideas about social justice, which makes UNAWE special, (and probably why the CPGC is funding me!) As their website says, “By raising awareness of the scale and beauty of the Universe the main goal of UNAWE is to broaden the minds of young children and awaken their curiosity in science, thereby helping to form curious, tolerant and internationally minded adults.”
So what will I actually be doing? The major goals for the summer include:
(1) Developing a board game for children ~6-7 years old that teaches them about light/photons. It needs to be not only scientifically correct and informative, but also interactive and accessible. The goal is then to have this be a product that can be sent to all participating branches — something that is low-cost, portable, and accessible for all.
(2) Creating a pamphlet to advertise UNAWE to possible participants. This pamphlet should contain basic info about the Universe Awareness project, our mission, how to get involved, etc. It will then open up to a poster of some cool universe photo. Basically, the kind of thing you get at major conferences. This pamphlet will also highlight the European Universe Awareness Program (EUNAWE) which just received 1.9 million euros for programming.
Other continuous projects include:
(1) Maintain a weekly “Space Scoop” which takes the media releases from ESO and makes them kid-friendly. (ESO is the European Organization for Astronomy Research in the Southern Hemisphere– They’re the one’s who have the VLT — Very Large Telescope — in Chile, and also major telescopes all over the world. In other words, they’re a really big deal.)
(2) Build a base of contacts of current participants as well as potential participants around the world (the US could be next!)
For the rest of the day, I was mostly reading and learning not only about UNAWE, but also about our partner organizations, and other science outreach programs around the world. I also read a lot of kids science magazines to get a hold on what publications for kids should look like. The day ended around 6pm, and now at 10:45. I am completely wiped, even though the sun is JUST setting!
While it was difficult for me to sit at a desk all day, mostly working on my computer, I am extremely excited about the work that I’ll be doing this summer. These are issues that I think about a lot, and it feels great to finally be getting involved in a way that I think will really make a difference!
Thanks for reading! I’d like for my posts to be mostly short with a lot of pictures, but today I thought it would be good to give an overview of things at work…
Goedenacht! (Good night)