More than a hundred children have already benefited from the world’s first dedicated Universe Awareness (UNAWE) educational playroom, which is housed within the Haus der Astronomie in Heidelberg, Germany.
The Haus der Astronomie, which opened in December 2011 as a centre for astronomy education and outreach, was built in the shape of a spiral galaxy and features internal winding hallways to the upper and lower floors. During the building’s construction, the non-profit association Astronomieschule e.V. (now part of the Haus der Astronomie) secured funding from the German software corporation SAP for the UNAWE room.
The room is equipped with various educational materials, including a carpet that is decorated with Moon craters that is often used for storytelling. “It can be very effective to introduce children to astronomy concepts in an informal learning environment,” says Natalie Fischer, National Project Manager for EU-UNAWE Germany.
However, Cecilia Scorza, joint EU-UNAWE National Project Manager for Germany, is keen to point out that it is much more than an out-of-school classroom. “This is the first room of its kind for children, where we not only teach astronomy, but also show the connection to culture and the awareness of being global citizens,” says Cecilia.
Pedro Russo, International Project Manager for EU-UNAWE, hopes that other countries in the organisation’s global network will adopt the concept. “It would be wonderful to see UNAWE rooms opening up around the world,” he says.