The Astronomic Observatory develops a supportive scientific project adapted to children visual difficulties

Piezas que componen un astrokit.

The Astronomic Observatory of the University of Valencia has undertaken this year the project ‘A touch of the Universe’, a non-profit mission that aims to create thirty kits with tactile astronomical activities for children with visual difficulties. The Observatory is currently distributing these packages or astrokits, sending them to educators and teachers from Astronomers Without Borders, Universe Awareness (UNAWE) and Galileo Teacher Training Program (GTTP) in America, Africa and Asia.

The project has been presented at a press conference the 11 December, in the Office of the Principal building. The Vice-Principal for Office of the Vice‐Principal for Sustainability and Infrastructures, Clara Martínez; the director of the Astronomic Observatory, José Carlos Guirado; and the person in charge of this initiative, Amelia Ortiz, attended to the presentation.

During the presentation, Clara Martínez pointed out that ‘A touch of the Universe’ is one of the priorities of her Vice-Principal Office and of the University of Valencia for the social and sustainable responsibility that comes with this project.

Each of the thirty astrokits consists of several pieces, among which a sphere that simulates the lunar terrain and a hemisphere representing the main constellations stand out. The latters, moreover, are also palpable in three 3D models that recreate the distance from Earth to each star that is part of Orion, Ursa Major and Taurus.

The rest of the astrokit is formed by a small book on the moon phases, another one with activities and some embossed sheets with astronomical images that NASA made for the International Astronomy Year. Everything under the symphony of the planetarium show ‘El cielo en tus manos’ (‘The sky in your hands’), a DVD included in the kit with explanations in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Two speakers help the child to touch the reliefs of the constellations as they explain everything about what the child is touching, such as the colour of the light from a star or the history of constellations.

It is a material that, in principle, is addressed to children, fully adapted to braille, but it is also extensible to blind people of all ages. In the classrooms of countries without resources, teachers sometimes do not have the necessary and appropriate means to help children with visual impairment. This is the disadvantage that this supportive project intends to remedy, that is the continuation of a previous project, in which twenty moons were sent from Argentina to India. The satisfaction of educators, their enthusiasm and their collaboration with the improvement proposals led to this second part of the project.

“The astrokit is not sent in Spain, only to developing countries because the funding comes from the Astronomy Office for Development, but there are many people that are also interested in other countries such as the United States, Belgium and even Scotland”, says the director of the project, Amelia Ortiz.

‘A touch of the Universe’, in Uniempren
It was planned that in December of this year, the project would finish sending the whole of the astrokits, but until now there is not enough funding for this final step. Specifically, 2000 euros are necessary to send the last eighteen boxes to their addressee.

It is because of that that the people in charge of this supportive project have decided to launch a new funding campaign through the crowdfunding formula, using the university platform Uniempren. This way, people or organisations that want to collaborate can do it via its webpage:

Uniempren is an initative of the OPAL, a service attached to the General Foundation of the University of Valencia, which is open to all Spanish academic institutions that aim to help students and graduates to promote their business or social projects through crowdfunding, finding investors or partners and non-monetary contributions.

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Last update: 11 de december de 2013 13:15.

News release