Landing on their feet

21st March 2003 at 00:00
Heather McLean visits a school where pupils won an award for their website about the first astronauts to land on the Moon

Daring astronauts boldly going where none has gone before is a subject that enthrals students of all ages. One school that has taken its own approach to the subject is Cleves Primary in Newham, London, where a small team of pupils created an entire website about one event - man's first landing on the Moon in the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969.

The Cleves website was created as an entry for the Students' and Teachers'

Educational Materials (STEM) project by a team of three pupils from Years 5 and 6, and Jim Lucas, the school's science co-ordinator and team leader for Years 3 and 4. Jim's team - Emmylynn Mutibwa, Moynul Islam and Danielle Cox - won first prize in the primary category of last year's STEM project awards.

Jim Lucas says: "The students had already studied websites and how they work with their class teachers, so when I said 'We're going to make a website, this is how you link pages', the kids scoffed 'Oh yes, that's called hyperlinking', so I had to move it on a little higher. I didn't have a clue what I was doing half the time. It was very much trial and error.

"In a lot of ways, developing the website was similar to what the children had already done. They'd done getting text from paper into a computer. This was just showing them how to get that text on to a website."

The group visited the Science Museum in January last year to decide what aspect of space their website would focus on. They took the school's three digital cameras to photograph the exhibits, and part of the website includes pictures of a replica of the Apollo 11 landing module. The students applied what they had learned in art and ICT to composing the digital pictures and later used Microsoft Picture It! software for computer manipulation of the images.

After the museum visit, the team began to plan the website. Jim Lucas says:

"We brainstormed together on how we were going to do it. It was a case of sitting down with lots of pieces of paper and making a sort of virtual website, a method that links into what the team had done in other areas of the curriculum. They take an idea and make a spider web of ideas out of it, so they can find out what they know and what they would like to know."

Martin Bazley, internet projects manager at the Science Museum, says: "It was pleasing to see how quickly the children developed new skills in ICT, team working and other core skills, especially literacy, while working on the project."

A member of the Science Museum visited the school to explain how to link web pages and discuss what would make a good website. Emmylynn says: "We learned how to compare websites. He showed us different science websites and one he didn't want us to make, a boring one. It didn't have much information, it didn't catch attention."

Planning the website took the team about three sessions. Jim Lucas says:

"It was very much ongoing, developing as we went along. We got a basic idea but then things developed from it and we binned some bits and added new ones to it."

The project improved the pupils' team working and development of ideas. At this stage, Jim says, it became apparent that the team's ideas varied so a plan for a second website was born: "One group was going to do purely Apollo 11 and the other group was going to look at wider space travel."

However, the two sites became difficult to organise. Jim says: "I was finding it rather difficult to develop two websites, because I was also doing a school website. It was becoming unmanageable to have these two massive, imaginative websites happening at the same time." As a result, the space travel site was abandoned because the Apollo 11 was better.

Jim Lucas says developing a website does not have to be complicated: "You can make a website very simple with one or two pages and then develop it later. If teachers want to make a website to show children how to do it, you'd probably make one or two pages and show children how to link them together and how to put a picture in. We were seeing how many different things we could do as a group."

One part of the site, Memories, developed as the students attempted to find out what the world was like in the 1960s. The team devised a questionnaire based on Apollo 11 and set out to interview older people who would remember it. They recorded their answers and discussed which were the most interesting.

The interviews that were deemed good enough to go on the website were typed up using Microsoft's FrontPage software, which makes it simple to transfer text, pictures and soundbites from a computer on to the web. The students photographed the interviewees with digital cameras and put their pictures on the website along with a soundbite using Microsoft's Recording software.

Martin Bazley is particularly impressed by the Memories section of the website: "It was wonderful to see such a novel approach to the project. The pupils didn't just write a report of their visit to the space gallery. They interpreted the exhibits by collecting memories from people about how they felt when they heard about astronauts landing on the Moon."

Another part of the website is Front Page. The students created two newspaper front pages depicting what they thought the reaction of their community would have been to the first man landing on the moon. Before they wrote the articles, the team searched newspaper websites and chose pictures of Apollo 11 from the Nasa and Smithsonian Institute websites. The final pieces were created in Word rather than FrontPage, so other students could download and manipulate them.

Emmylynn says: "I liked making the newspaper. I saw pictures of people that went to space. We typed it up on our school computers in old English." The use of what the children called "old English" amuses Jim Lucas: "I had to tell them we were talking about the 1960s, not the 1760s. It gave me a good idea of their perception of time."

About 1,700 people have visited Cleves' Apollo 11 website since it went live last July. Jim Lucas is now on a government-sponsored sabbatical to work with the Science Museum and teachers on developing websites for the STEM awards. He says more teachers should get involved in STEM, as it is far more motivating for a student to see work published globally on the internet than stuck on a wall in a school corridor.

He says: "Pick a subject and design a site around it. At even the simplest level, a website gives kids a huge, multi-faceted notice board. Quite a lot of website design is stuff teachers do anyway, just used in a different format."

STEM is a yearly competition to improve students' and adults' web skills through the creation of websites based on exhibits at the London Science Museum, the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford or the National Railway Museum in York. It is sponsored by Toshiba and supported by The TES and has led to the creation of almost 1,000 sites. The STEM award website has information on the project and how to enter the competition. It also has links to the sites that have been created for the awards.


Digital camera

Sony Mavica from pound;360.

Cleves Primary School has three digital cameras - two are Olympus Camedia 840s which, Jim Lucas says, "are nearly obsolete" and one Sony Mavica that his team found far easier to use because it has a floppy disk that goes into the computer for fast picture download.


RM sells desktop computers and laptop packages to schools. RM Notebook for primary school entry-level from pound;499.



Microsoft FrontPage is school friendly, Jim Lucas says. It enables a user to put text, pictures, sound and video footage on to a website. "It doesn't tell you that you've got an image saved in the wrong format, it just sorts it out for you and puts it where you want it."


Cleves Primary School Apollo 11

This site is a good example of what the STEM award judges look for.


The Science Museum

The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television

The National Railway Museum


Apollo 11 mission


Smithsonian Institution

The Times newspaper

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