16-07-2013“Space Skype” links kids from across the world!

In June, Universe Awareness organised an activity that brought children from Portugal and South Africa together to learn about the stars and share their stories about the constellations shining over their home countries. This activity has been triggered by the South African Ambassador to Portugal following a workshop in Lisbon on radio astronomy and SKA (November 2013) that has been supported by AERAP. This workshop has been organised by the Instituto de Telecomunicações and CICGE from University of Porto (Portugal) in the framework of the “2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Week on ICT” organised by the EuroAfrica-ICT/P8 Initiative in Lisbon.

The event held on 20 May kicked off at the Padre Agostinho da Silva primary school in Cascais (Portugal) when a group of 40 nine-year-old students from the school travelled to the Matilde Rosa Araújo secondary school to take part in several hands-on activities related to astronomy.

The activities organised during the day were developed by two teachers: Paula Furtado from the Matilde Rose Araújo school and Edite Leal. They included telling the children stories about the constellations, inviting them to design their own constellations, discussions of the many different ways we can observe the Universe and a lesson on the difference between the ancient mythological stories behind the constellations and how we understand these groups of stars today.

The activity day also included an exciting Skype link between the children in Portugal and a class of students from the Carnarvon primary school in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. The two groups had the opportunity to discuss what they had learned earlier in the day and share the constellations they created and using the UNAWE Earth ball they demonstrated to each other their locations on the planet. The students spent the rest of the session discussing their schools, important people from each other their countries and other stories about the regions they live in.

The teacher from the Portuguese school told a traditional Portuguese story to their guests, called Lenda da Serra da Estrela. The story was told in English. It is about a shepherd's dog that dies and is transformed into the famous constellation Canis Majoris, at whose heart leis the star brightest star in the night sky: Sirius. This story was chosen because Canis Majoris can be seen from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at alternate times of the year.

Despite a slight language barrier, the children were full of enthusiasm and energy, and thoroughly enjoyed learning about their night sky from the other side of the planet!

Universe Awareness programme is implemented in Portugal by NUCLIO and in South Africa by NRF/SAAO.

Sarah Eve Roberts (roberts@strw.leidenuniv.nl), slightly edited by AERAP (aerap@aerap.org)

NewsRead the latest news