Two IAU OAD-funded projects are on the shortlist of the Nature Research Awards for Inspiring Women in Science in the Science Outreach Category.
The aim of the awards for inspiring women in science, in partnership with The Estée Lauder Companies, is to celebrate and support the achievements of women in science, and of all those who work to encourage girls and young women to engage with STEM subjects and who work to support women to stay in STEM careers around the world. The Science Outreach Category is presented for initiatives that support girls or young women to engage with, enjoy and study STEM subjects OR to increase the retention of women in STEM careers.
- Ikala STEM is a non-profit organization in Madagascar that aims to encourage Malagasy girls and young women to engage in STEM. They run the LAMPS project supported by the OAD.
- Molo Mhlaba is a network of nonprofit primary schools in underserved South African communities that provides young girls with access to STEAM education. They run the Astro Molo Mhlaba project, supported by the OAD.
LAMPS (Leveraging Local Astronomy Site to Promote STEM), Madagascar:
Young people in Madagascar struggle to see the direct relevance of STEM in daily lives. LAMPS seeks to address such misconception by leveraging the existence of the future radio astronomy African VLBI Network (AVN) site in Arivonimamo.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the project was organized as e-LAMPS, an online event on social media for French and Malagasy high school and college students. Through astronomy and STEM-oriented activities, the program promoted STEM education, demonstrated the relevance of STEM for local socio-economic development, and encouraged them to pursue STEM-oriented studies/careers.
Astro Molo Mhlaba, South Africa:
Astro Molo Mhlaba targets the issues of inclusivity in SA science by engaging its most underrepresented group – black girls from underserved communities – in astronomy programmes at various stages of education. These are used as a tool to inspire girls to be passionate about science, motivate them to pursue a career in STEM, and provide them with the tools required to turn their ambitions into reality. Through its regular, long-term structure, AMM provides girls with the continuous support required to achieve their potential, which schools in their communities seldom have the resources to provide.
- Astro Club: weekly, after-school programme providing astronomy-based activities to local primary school girls
- Astro Academy: weekly, after-school lessons aimed at both grade 11/12 (G11/12) female students (schools names Q19) from local high schools and four recently-matriculated young women. The latter are trained to run the Astro Club as Facilitators (ACFs). All participants are taught and mentored by female astronomers, and provided with STEM-career advice and support.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, the project printed and distributed: materials to the students -astronomy inspired calendars featuring women who have achieved amazing feats in STEAM, introduction to astronomy workbooks, and primary science workbooks that incorporated astronomy, chemistry, natural science and life sciences. A few, socially-distanced, in-person classes took place during the weeks when schools were open.