Peterborough - Orrery idea is on another planet

26th March 2010 at 00:00

A school in Peterborough has become the first in the country to boast a "human orrery" - an intriguing tool for teaching about the solar system.

Most orreries are mechanical models that demonstrate the path of the planets around the sun. But at the King's School, metal discs have been laid into the ground to show a scale map of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, a major asteroid and two comets.

Pupils can "become" the planets, standing on the discs to demonstrate where a planet will be on a certain date, all the way up to 2065.

The orrery was installed as part of the school's involvement with Project Faraday, a national scheme to support interactive science teaching.

Schools were invited to come up with new ideas and bid for cash to put them into practice.

Assistant head and physics teacher John Kinchin said: "My colleague every year builds a very fancy sundial and we originally thought about that and I felt, 'why not be really ambitious'?

"I knew of the orrery at Armagh University that was designed by Professor Mark Bailey. In a moment of madness, I contacted him and said: 'Could we copy your orrery?' and he said yes.

"I wanted something Peterborough could say was its own," Mr Kinchin said.

He added: "This is only the second one of its kind in the world. Whereas other orreries are models of the solar system, this one is very accurate." IB.

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