How to get your students excited about Tim Peake’s mission

14th December 2015 at 18:24

Tim Peake is about to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) as the first British ESA astronaut to go there and I could not be more excited! Never mind Christmas when this is coming.

I successfully led a bid in Norwich for a group of schools here to hold a radio link to the ISS in February whilst he is there – an amazing opportunity to engage our local pupils of all ages in his mission and to inspire them in STEM subjects more generally. We are providing links to other nationwide related competitions, projects and resources; teacher training to help the mission be incorporated in the curriculum; a two day event around the time of the linkup itself involving workshops, speakers and a small careers fair; and various legacy projects including one with space balloons! Listen out on launch day for the other areas in the country which have won this fantastic opportunity offered by the wonderful amateur radio enthusiasts – the ARISS group.

The first place to go if you are keen to get your pupils inspired by the mission too is the ‘Principia’ mission website. There are some fantastic mini-videos on the BBC news website at the moment too about Tim’s training and background, the effect of space on the body and more. I am very excited about a special Horizon on BBC2 this evening (as I write) which should be a fantastic alternative to the ever-too-often-used ‘end of term video’.

It is extraordinary how many opportunities have emerged to link the mission to all areas of the curriculum. The Space to Earth Challenge involves trying to get pupils or groups of pupils to reach the Space Station themselves by cycling, swimming and running the 400km distance that it is from Earth. The pictures of Earth from the International Space Station scream out to Geography departments and there is a fantastic BBC I Wonder page by Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock on the history of the UK’s role in space.

In terms of Biology, thousands of schools across the country have registered to receive rocket seeds which are spending time on the ISS with Tim, along with some ‘control’ ones which have stayed on Earth. What ‘real science’ they then do with these is up to them! Will radiation have affected the seeds’ capability to grow?

Finally, for now, the ‘TimPix’ project enables students to access and interpret real data being collected on the International Space Station about the radiation it is exposed to and how this varies during its orbit. Real problem solving and science can be done here, once again demonstrating to students the creativity in Physics I have mentioned before.

Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get you school engaged and excited in Tim Peake’s mission!

Stephanie Grant teaches physics in Norwich and is an Ogden Trust Physics Teaching Fellow