Philosophy of the EU-HOU project

Making science more appealing to the young requires a serious rethinking of the way science is conveyed. Young people attribute their lack of interest in S&T to the way science is taught in schools, the complexity of these subjects, and an apparent shortage of attractive career prospects. The EU-HOU project "Hands-On Universe, Europe. Bringing frontline interactive astronomy to the classroom" is in keeping with the general goal of renewing the teaching of science.

Despite their love of gadgets and technological wizardry, too many young people see science as being uninteresting, distant and, above all, ‘uncool’. This has translated into a gradual dropping off in the numbers of young people pursuing science and technology (S&T) studies and careers.

This has potentially serious consequences for Europe. Modern society’s prosperity and well-being is based on continuous scientific and technological progress. As Europe continues its quest to construct the world’s most competitive knowledge-based economy, the demand for top research talent is set to grow massively. If more young people do not join the ranks of the scientific community, this shortfall will become even greater.

A re-awakening of interest for science in the young generation is foreseen through astronomy and the use of new technologies, which should challenge middle and high schools pupils. The primary target group will thus be the school teachers, who will be involved through a pilot school scheme widely advertised.

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The project is based on real observations, possibly acquired by the pupils themselves in classrooms thanks to either a European and worldwide network of automatic telescopes operated via Internet or didactical tools (Webcam system, radio telescopes) developed within this project. These observations can be manipulated in classrooms with a specific software designed to be pupils friendly. They are integrated into pedagogical resources constructed in a close collaborative work between researchers and teachers. The ressources developed in the course of this project are posted on this Web site.

A new step has been engaged with EU-HOUMW "Connecting classrooms to the Milky Way" (2010-2012). A European network of new Small Radio-Telescopes (SRT) has been installed in 5 different European countries. Each telescope can be remotely controlled from a Web page by European schools. The setup is operational now. Teachers are currently trained and start to use this new network. Interested persons (amateur astronomers, associations or structures involved with science dissemination, etc.) are also encouraged to use this network, which can also be used when pupils are not working! The sky in radio can be observed 24 hours per day.