Space Education resource offices to open in Belgium and Spain
After last year’s successful opening of the first European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO) in Amsterdam, two more of these groundbreaking resource centres are about to be inaugurated in Belgium and Spain.
The opening ceremony for the second ESERO, to be located in the Planetarium of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels, will take place on Friday, 27 April, followed by an event in the CosmoCaixa Science Museum, Barcelona, on Thursday, 3 May.
These ESEROs are being introduced at a key moment in time, when Europe is facing a severe decline in the number of young people studying Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) and pursuing careers in these subjects.
The primary task of each ESERO is to assist the education community at large, in particular teachers, in their efforts to enthuse young people about SET through the excitement and achievements associated with space exploration. By developing close relations with national education stakeholders and participation in educational activities specifically tailored for the national curricula of each ESA Member State, the ESEROs will play an important role in promoting science and engineering careers in the European space sector.
“It is almost impossible for ESA to interact directly with its primary target audience, i.e. millions of students, professors and teachers,” said Hugo Marée of ESA’s Education Department. “In addition to the various languages spoken across Europe, the educational systems are very different from one Member State to another. Therefore, in order to implement effectively its education policy, the Agency decided to opt for a ‘Member State by Member State approach’ through the ESEROs.”
The three ESEROs are being established on the premises of existing scientific organisations. However, most of the financial backing is being provided by ESA, with some additional support from national governments and science-related organisations.
“We decided to put each office in a venue where teachers and youngsters come on a regular basis,” said Marée. “The idea is to facilitate contact between ESA and teachers via the managers of the ESEROs.
“Each resource centre will identify how it can best answer the needs of the local educational community and build upon already existing activities. National networks involving teachers and educational establishments have already been formed or are currently being established in order to ensure close coordination with the ESEROs.”
An overall evaluation of the initial success of the three pilot projects is planned in 2008, when a decision will be made about whether to develop similar resource centres in other Member States. If the review is positive, it is anticipated that ESERO offices and contact points will be established in all of the ESA Member States by 2010 at the latest.
Meanwhile, preliminary discussions and studies are already under way with regard to the establishment of a fourth pilot project in the United Kingdom. In collaboration with the British National Space Centre, ESA has invited Yorkshire Forward, a regional development agency based in Yorkshire, to manage the implementation of the ESERO pilot phase. The long-term plan is to establish a network of ‘ESERO contact points’ throughout the UK.