The sky is accessible to all. Astronomy introduces students to science in developing countries where science facilities are lacking. Astronomy club share their passion with others in every country, presenting science to the public.
Astronomy for Equity helps established formal and informal education programs expand their reach. Sustainability is a constant struggle for these programs. The value of astronomy programs and the abundance of resources – especially the legions of passionate enthusiasts – remain largely untapped. Often, small additions provide an outsized return. Recognition through international support itself can make a big difference.
Roaya, a national astronomy organization in Libya, established middle school astronomy clubs across the country, providing needed support for science education after years of conflict and unrest. There are enthusiastic teachers and students, and support from Roaya’s amateur astronomers and the Ministry of Education. But telescopes aren’t available in Libya. Astronomy for Equity’s campaign provided telescopes, inspiring the next generation of scientists.
Classes in Ukraine retreat to bomb shelters every day. Children displaced from the war front crowd classrooms in safer cities. “When you want, you dream. They stopped dreaming.” says Ukrainian psychologist Tatyana Fannouch. Students’ plans for the future are endangered by the war’s impact on schools and the trauma the students and their teachers endure. But astronomy students saw a silver lining in the power outages in their cities – darkened skies with the stars shining brightly. They asked for telescopes to explore the heavens and Astronomy for Equity delivered.
Left: A damaged classroom in Ukraine. Right: Ukrainian students at the International Olympiad for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Junior in Romania.
A limited number of small grants are awarded annually by the International Astronomical Union’s Office of Astronomy for Development for programs that use astronomy to support development in their societies. Many more proposals are submitted and approved than the office can fund. Astronomy for Equity supports proposals leveraging astronomy education for development that are approved, but not yet funded.
Astronomy clubs in every country engage in public outreach, educating others while sharing their passion for the cosmos. In developing countries, groups often lack the most basic of resources, such as small telescopes and books. Providing these simple resources to existing programs allows them to do far more with the most critical resource they already have in abundance – experienced, eager volunteers.
A few $200 telescopes for an astronomy club, or $2000 for several telescopes and reading materials for a school, returns uncounted hours of ongoing public education programs that foster scientific understanding and awareness, and support for science programs and education. Once empowered, volunteer individuals and organizations tend to expand beyond their initial plans, reaping additional return on the investment. Astronomers with a reputation or significant online presence in astronomy often receive appeals for these materials from individuals and organizations around the world.
Astronomy for Equity vets requests and uses its reputation and access to western audiences to fund or find other ways to support these widely dispersed groups.