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."


Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today