It's a lesson, Jim, but not as we know it

25th January 2008 at 00:00
Space is renowned as the final frontier, the outer limit of human exploration. But now it is just another day in the classroom.

A new programme, devised by Durham University, uses the latest discoveries in astronomy and space exploration as tools for primaries.

Pioneering photographs, taken daily by satellites probing the furthest reaches of the solar system, are used as the basis for cross-curricular discussions. For example, describing a lunar landscape could be an exercise in adjectives. Alternatively, pupils could compile questions to ask astronomers about the photos, using different interrogative words.

Pupils are also asked how an inhabitant of another planet might address a letter to them. They are encouraged to suffix their addresses with the name of the planet, galaxy and sub-cluster of galaxies.

And groups are tasked with creating a model of a Mars landing vehicle that will enable them to drop an egg safely from a height.

Paula Martin, Durham science outreach co-ordinator, said: "Children love talking about space. They like seeing the night sky. It's undiscovered. You can imagine it for yourself. You can take yourself off on a world of adventures and no one can say 'That's wrong'."

Anu Ojha, advanced skills physics teacher at Great Barr School in Birmingham, agrees. "You're dealing with distances and time spans that are incomprehensible, for kids and adults," he said. "Pupils see science as vibrant. It's a canvas on which you can let imagination run riot."


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