Astronomy and Literature to Strengthen Public School Education

Although the majority of Brazil’s population is composed of black people and women, there is still an underrepresentation of women, black, LGBTQIA+ and indigenous people in the sciences, especially in Physics and Astronomy. In collaboration with pedagogues and cultural agents from our universities (UFRGS and UFRJ), Casa da Tia Ciata (Cultural Centre) and public schools, we develop reading circles and workshops on the stories of heavens. We are building an itinerant library with children’s and youth books that bring the voices of people silenced in the country – women, black people, quilombolas, indigenous and those from slums. Our main goal is to strengthen primary and secondary education in science, through equity and equal opportunities for children and young people living in extreme social vulnerability. Our target audience is primary and secondary students and teachers in public schools. We have selected books from Brazilian, African and Portuguese (PLOAD) writers/scientists and promote the exchange of letters between teachers and students from the PLOAD countries, which allows us to perform the intersection between science (astronomy) and art (literature) and engage the children in the universe of imagination.

For now, several workshops were held in Salvador/Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre/Rio Grande do Sul, both cities in Brazil, with the target audience of the project. The workshops are mainly focused on the students’ reading skills in themes involving black African, Afro-Brazilian and indigenous literature. Teachers, with different audiences, have been working on astronomy themes in parallel following the project planning. In Cape Verde, the teacher Dulce has also done sky observation activities with her students. In Brazil, children from Rio de Janeiro visited quilombola (maroon) communities in Rio. Each of the teachers has worked on cultural elements that involve African countries and, vice versa, Brazil. The students have not yet exchanged letters with each other, but the teachers are organizing themselves in this direction.

We have worked mainly with public schools in neighborhoods far from the major centers of Brazil and Cape Verde and with peripheral black/indigenous communities in conditions of high social vulnerability in both countries. Undergraduate students at the two Brazilian universities were also involved. They are students in science courses (physics/ astronomy) and undergraduate (teacher training). Primary school teachers are black women.