Cardiff project gives the Universe to school children in a box
23 May 2014
Cardiff University has embarked on a project which reaches out to Welsh primary schools with the aim of inspiring a generation of scientists from areas traditionally underrepresented in higher education.
Funded by the Welsh Government's National Science Academy, the Universe in a Classroom initiative will provide 100 schools from across the country with educational toolkits and training to enable teachers to make teaching astronomy and space sciences to 4-10 year olds effective, engaging and fun.
"Despite the studies which have shown astronomy and space sciences to be among the most popular school subjects for kids around the globe, many teachers and educators don't know when to start bringing these topics into the classroom," said Dr Haley Gomez, an astrophysicist from the University's School of Physics and Astronomy, who leads the initiative with her husband, Dr Edward Gomez from the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network.
She continued: "That's where the hands-on teaching resource 'Universe in a Box' comes in. The kit contains over 40 hands-on activities described in an activity book, as well as the materials and models required to do them.
"We provide the necessary support for primary school teachers by offering training days where they can explore the contents of the kit and activity book. Many of the activities are linked to the national curriculum, so the teachers have training and high-quality resources, giving them confidence when teaching scientific topics they may be unfamiliar with.
"The ultimate aim of the kit is to help teachers instil in children a perspective of their place in the Universe and to engender an enduring curiosity about science subjects. We hope that this curiosity will develop into a passion that will stay with them throughout their lives, maybe even inspiring them to become professional scientists one day."
The kits will be handed out to underserved Welsh primary schools for free during teacher training sessions and school workshops run by Cardiff University undergraduate and postgraduate students. Universe in a Box was developed by Universe Awareness, a project based at Leiden Observatory, Netherlands.
Sarah Eve Roberts, Universe in the Classroom project officer, added: "Universe in the Classroom shares the Universe Awareness ethos of using the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to inspire young children and encourage them to develop an interest in science and technology."
The National Science Academy is a Welsh Government Scheme designed to support STEM education in Wales. Universe Awareness is running a global Kickstarter campaign to bring Universe in a Box to underprivileged communities and train primary school teachers to use it, following the pioneering example at Cardiff University with Universe in the Classroom.