Flying machines evolved from man's desire to fly like a bird. See many species at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds nature reserves around Britain, many of which encourage school excursions. The RSPB's junior branch, The Young Ornithologists Club, has more than 130,000 members. For pound;10 a year, they receive a bi-monthly magazine and free access to reserves. Events such as beginner birdwatching, seabird open days, sunset specials and nocturnal walks are held throughout the year. Contact: RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL, tel: 01767 680551.
It's always an exciting spectacle when the Red Arrows fly. Displays scheduled for the next two weeks include: Devonport and Dartmouth, August 28, 12.30pm and 6pm respectively; Llandudno, Wales, and Hoylake, August 30, 2pm and 5pm respectively; Beauvechain, Belgium, and Southport, September 4; Southport and Shepway, September 5; Jerez, Spain, September 12. Reds hotline: 0891 664424; website: www.deltaweb.co.
ukredsreddates.htm More than 150 historic aircraft from biplanes and Spitfires to Concorde are on display at "Europe's premier aviation museum", The Imperial War Museum Duxford and American Air Museum. It was built during World War I, later becoming a Battle of Britain fighter station and American 8th Air Force base. Features include the Battle of Britain operations room and the hands-on Flying Machine exhibition, which explores how aeroplanes fly. Free to children under 16. Education sessions for secondary schools include the War in the air 1914-18 and 1939-45, trench warfare, the Home Front 1939-45, the Battle of Britain, the Americans in Great Britain and aeroplane structures. Sessions for primary schools include the Home Front, Battle of Britain, Britain since 1930, assembling an aeroplane and how it flies. Tel: 01223 835000.
The Imperial War Museum Duxford near Cambridge hosts regular air shows. The next one is September 12, with displays from the Army Air Historic Flight, the Royal Navy Historic Flight and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Compare the Bristol Fighter (maximum speed 125 mph) and the Hawker Hunter from 1951 (maximum speed 620 mph). Machines on display will include the the DC3, the Wildcat and Bearcat, the Lancaster and Hercules. Children up to 18 free.The Autumn Air Show, October 17, will focus on Duxford-based aircraft including World War II fighters like the Spitfire and the Hurricane, the Bristol Blenheim and the post-war Hawker Hunter. Tickets: pound;6.25-pound;15 from Ticketmaster. Tel: 0171 413 1722.
The history of aviation from bi-planes to the V-Bomber is represented at the Newark Air Museum, Nottinghamshire, which has 50 aircraft and cockpit sections on display. Tel: 01636 707170.
The Imperial War Museum, London SE1, explores aerial conflicts since 1914. Exhibits include a Spitfire, a V2 rocket, a Polaris missile and works by 20th-century war artists. Free admission to children under 16. Tel: 0171 416 5320;website: www.iwm.org.ukeduchtm The IWM's sister museum, The Cabinet War Rooms in King Charles Street, London SW1, the nerve-centre used by Winston Churchill. The 21 rooms were hurriedly converted on the eve of World War II. For education programme, tel: 0171 930 6961. Pre-booked school parties and children under 16 free. Tel: 0171 930 6961. Pre-booked school parties free.
A prototype of the Spitfire, a flying boat, a Lancaster bomber and a Battle of Britain display (bomb sites, shelter, searchlight and command posts) are among exhibits at The Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, London NW9. Visitors can discover the basic principles of aviation through interactive displays. Discounts are offered to school groups. A typical education session might comprise an introductory talk and workshop looking at, say Bomber Command, with demonstrations of flight principles. Special events are held during school holidays.
Tel: 0181 205 2266.
As our skies become as cluttered as the M25, space exploration looks ever more attractive. Many NASA installations in the United States are open to the public. Its headquarters are at 300 E St SW, Washington DC, four blocks south of the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum, which houses an extensive collection of aeronautics and space programme artefacts; tel: 001 202 357 1300; website: www.nasa.govvisitors.html Visitors can tour the Rocket Garden or board a full-scale replica of Explorer at the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Free admission. Bus tours are available costing $14 adults, $10 children (aged three to 11), which explore the ApolloSaturn V Centre, observation gantry and International Space Station Centre. Tel: 001 407 867 7110; website: www.kennedyspacecenter.comhtml At the nearby US Space Camp, children can spend a week training as astronauts experiencing space shuttle missions and weightlessness, sleeping in a Starship 'Enterprise'-type dormitory and visiting the Kennedy Space Centre, where they may even see a rocket take off. 6225 Vectorspace Boulevard, Titusville, Florida 32780-8040, tel: 001 407 267 3184. There is also a space academy in Huntsville, Alabama for 11 to 13-year-olds, advanced space academy for 13 to 18s and one for adults with a programme for teachers. US Space Camp Foundation, 1 Tranquillity Base, Huntsville, Alabama35805-3399.
Space Center Houston, the official visitor centre of NASA's Johnson Space Centre, home of astronaut training and Mission Control, offers visitors an opportunity to marvel at the American manned space flight programme. An extensive education programme is available including overnight visits and day camps. Admission: $12.95, $8.95 children (four to 11). Group rates available. 1601 Nasa Road, Houston, Texas 77058, tel: 001 713 281 244 2130.