Astronomy For Equity, Providing Opportunities In Stem To The Unserved Through Astronomy

Special topic: Astronomy Education Beyond the Classroom
5th Shaw-IAU Workshop
Wednesday Nov. 29, 2023
UTC: 4:10 p.m. - 4:25 p.m.
Thursday Nov. 30, 2023
UTC: 3:10 p.m. - 3:25 p.m.

Astronomy for Equity is a new initiative under the NGO Blue Marble Space that uses astronomy to provide opportunities for marginalized communities through astronomy. A remote observing program that provides research-type project experience has just started with students at a university in Benghazi, students of an astronomy club in Afghanistan. Students in schools in Ukraine will be involved soon. While this project may be considered to be informal education, it is augmenting the formal education programs of students who would not otherwise have the experience of a research-type project. Resources for teaching astronomy to the blind and visually impaired and experienced practitioners are being brought together with astronomy clubs worldwide to train hundreds, if not thousands, of outreach amateur astronomers to include this community in their ongoing activities. Telescopes have been acquired through crowdfunding for astronomy clubs in five cities in Libya that have the support of a Libyan astronomy NGO and the Education Ministry but couldn't acquire telescopes. Telescopes are en route to astronomy students in Ukraine. Fundraising through the sale of eclipse glasses for the annular in the US in 2023 will include sales of glasses purchased for donation to STEM students at schools in indigenous communities. This program will be extended to more schools for the 2024 total eclipse. Other programs are slated that will also use existing resources to address the problems of resource underutilization, lack of expertise across community borders, and even awareness of potential pathways to STEM careers. These conditions are an unfortunately common for most of the world's potential STEM students. There are young people everywhere with the ability to shine and make a difference in their communities and in many STEM fields who just never get the chance. These communities are the unserved, beyond the reach of NGOs providing services for underserved communities. For lack of the any of even the most basic opportunities, these talents go to waste. Local solutions are needed to build local infrastructure, starting with human capacity, to not only provide STEM education but to create an environment where the people value that education and where all students can take part.

About Mike Simmons

Mike Simmons has been an amateur astronomer and outreach leader for 50 years. Recognizing astronomy as a universal interest that transcends cultural differences, Mike founded Astronomers Without Borders in 2006 to unite astronomy and space enthusiasts worldwide through their common interests. He is currently an Affiliate Research Scientist at Blue Marble Space Institute of Science where he is creating programs addressing issues of diversity and inclusion using astronomy and space, Astronomy for Equity. He is a founding member of the Overview Institute, a member of the board directors of the International Dark-Sky Association, serves on the Outreach Committee of the African Astronomical Society and the IAU Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion. He regularly gives presentations, both in the US and abroad, on using astronomy to improve international relations and reduce inequity. Mike has received numerous awards for his work in the field, including having Minor Planet Simmons (22294) named in his honor in 2003. Mike was also awarded the prestigious 2014 Gabrielle and Camille Flammarion Prize from the Société Astronomique de France (SAF) for “setting a worldwide example that astronomy does transcend political and cultural borders.