Tag Archives: Universe Awareness

Open Source Physics wins SPORE

A SPORE, Science Prize for Online Resources in Education from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), was awarded to the Open Source Physics (OSP) website founded by  Wolfgang Christian and colleagues, Francisco Esquembre and Lyle Barbato.

Here’s an excerpt from the essay the three scientists wrote for Science magazine (published by AAAS) about their website,

Scientists routinely use computer modeling and computation in innovative research, including predicting the nature of He4 at extremely low temperatures and the impact of human activity on climate. Why does computer-based modeling remain absent from many educational programs?

The Open Source Physics (OSP) project, www.compadre.org/osp/, seeks to enhance computational physics education by providing a central Web site containing computer modeling tools, simulations, curricular resources such as lesson plans, and a computational physics textbook that explains the pedagogic simulations’ algorithms. Our resources are based on small single-concept simulations packaged with source codes that can be examined, modified, recompiled, and freely redistributed to teach fundamental computational skills. Students at all levels will benefit from these interactive simulations by learning to question and assess the simulation’s assumptions and output.

Students who learn physics concepts via static pictures may be led to construct incomplete or incorrect mental models that hamper their understanding of physical concepts.

The website is useful for university students although there are plans to make resources suitable for K-12 students, from the Nov. 24, 2011 news item on physorg.com,

Christian is currently working toward involving K-12 students, such as his wife’s middle-school students, who as seventh graders are learning about concepts such as temperature. Christian was able to adapt a college-level molecular dynamics simulation for them to explore changes in the phases of matter.

“The students could heat and cool the system, and then we could ask them questions like, ‘At what temperature does it melt?'” Christian says. “They got visual feedback from the simulation and had to make decisions about the basic concepts.”

The SPORE award is part of an ongoing initiative by Science magazine to recognize outstanding online science education efforts. From the Nov. 24, 2011 news item on physorg.com,

Science magazine developed the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) to promote the best online materials in science education. The acronym SPORE suggests a reproductive element adapted to develop, often in adverse conditions, into something new. Similarly, these winning projects can be seen as the seeds of progress in science education, despite considerable challenges to educational innovation. Each month, Science publishes an article by a recipient of the award, which explains the winning project. The article about Open Source Physics (OSP) will be published on November 25.

“We’re trying to advance science education,” says Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science. “This competition provides much-needed recognition to innovators in the field whose efforts promise significant benefits for students and for science literacy in general. The publication in Science of an article on each Web site will help guide educators around the globe to valuable free resources that might otherwise be missed.”

I have featured two previous SPORE winners, in the Universe Awareness posting and in the Ask a Biologist posting.

Universe Awareness wins prize

The latest winner of a SPORE (Science Prize for Online Resources in Education from the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS]) award is Universe Awareness (UNAWE). From the August 25, 2011 news item on Science Daily,

UNAWE is an international programme that uses the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to inspire children aged 4-10 years, particularly those from an underprivileged background. Through astronomy, it aims to cultivate a sense of perspective, foster global citizenship and stimulate interest in science at a crucial age in a child’s development. “In all of its activities, UNAWE pays close attention to local cultures to help engage with young children and to meet the specific educational needs of the country,” says Carolina Ödman- Govender, International Project Manager for UNAWE between 2005 and 2010.

Here’s a little more about UNAWE and its beginnings (from the UNAWE Background page),

In 2004, Leiden University professor George Miley first began exploring the idea of setting up an astronomy programme to educate and inspire young children, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds. He had been awarded an Academy Professorship by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and decided to use part of the associated funding to explore the feasibility of setting up such a programme. With considerable support and encouragement from Claus Madsen at ESO [European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere] , a successful workshop was held in Germany and it was agreed that the programme was worth pursuing. Universe Awareness (UNAWE) was born.

Shortly afterwards, Carolina Ödman was appointed as the first UNAWE International Project Manager. In 2006, thanks to a grant provided by the Netherlands Minister of Education Culture and Science, Ms. van der Hoeven, the UNAWE International Office was founded at Leiden Observatory, the Netherlands. With the help of Sarah Levin as Media Coordinator, Ödman built UNAWE into a thriving global project, with a network of about 400 experts from 40 countries.

…  Later that year [2009], the European Union awarded a grant of 1.9 million euros to fund a 3-year project called European Universe Awareness (EU-UNAWE), which builds on the work of Universe Awareness (UNAWE). With this grant, EU-UNAWE is now being further developed in six selected countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

EU-UNAWE is endorsed by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and it is now an integral part of the IAU Strategic Plan 2010–2020, which is called Astronomy for the Developing World. This is an ambitious blueprint that aims to use astronomy to foster education and provide skills and competencies in science and technology throughout the world, particularly in developing countries.

The UNAWE site offers a number of resources including a template for creating ‘star’ dice, instructions on making a reflective telescope, drawing posters from NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration), a Deadly Moons activity and  more.

The current UNAWE International Project Manager is Pedro Russo.

The last SPORE award I highlighted was the Ask a Biologist programme in my November 29, 2010 posting.