In the School of Science of the Universidad de Los Andes (ULA), in Mérida, Venezuela, a very successful event focused on elementary and high school students, was founded in 2000. The name of this event is “Encounter with Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Biology” (hereinafter “Encounters with Science”), and it integrates these disciplines, as well as Astronomy. Its main purpose is that young minds can become familiar with the methods of science inquiry and reasoning, and can understand the concepts and processes of the sciences through thoroughly prepared experiences.
“Encounters with Science” has grown each year in an exponential way. As a matter of fact, in its sixth edition (2005), the number of elementary and high school students coming from all over the country, has reached the outstanding number of approximately nine thousand. Among all the experiences that the students could be engaged in, were many involving Astronomy. These experiences were prepared by professors, together with graduate and undergraduate students, who are pursuing their degrees in all branches of science, including Astronomy. Although there is this incredible team of faculties and graduate and undergraduate students working together; the target is the students of the high and elementary schools. We certainly focus on the engaging and encouraging of students to experience scientific work at first hand.
This flourishing program is continuing to grow and to become strong. It has matured in the sense that now our professors have prepared an excellent didactic material that can, together with the hour/class teaching, prepare high school and elementary school students for a better understanding of science; particularly, helping in this way for a better education in Astronomy.
The main event of the Encounters lasts five days in the School of Science of ULA, but subsidiary events are spread all over the year and around the country through trips that our faculty members undertake with our students. Thereby, they reach places where students perhaps cannot attend the main event during its celebration. As a successful program, it can be interesting to see if other countries can adopt this method to recruit or to trigger the interest of students to pursue their studies in the Sciences.