We have launched MarsCam 2004. Using a sandpit in a key stage 2 classroom, we set up a "Mars" landscape, with Fido, our exploration probe, and are relaying it to our website using a webcam. On "Mars" is the school mascot, Teddy Robinson, a teddy bear who is very important in the life of the school. This is the first time he has left Spaldwick. Children and parents can see how he is doing on the front page of the website. They can also use a link on the page to email him and ask questions about Mars and how he is getting on.
In the first lesson relating to the project, reception children were shown our picture of "Mars" on the website, and it was explained that Teddy hadn't arrived yet. The next day they were delighted to see him on "Mars".
They discussed what they would like to ask him and how they would get their message to him. Ideas included rockets and a fax machine. They drew diagrams showing how the message would get there, accompanied by a lot of discussion. The next day they sent emails to Teddy: How do you move around? How did you get to Mars? When are you coming back? What does it look like? They also sent messages saying how much they missed him. I answered the questions. Sometimes I turned them around - when they asked: "How did you get to Mars?", I replied: How do you think I got here?"
The website picture will change. We will add flags so that children can discuss where visitors to Mars come from and we might find water or even alien life. Older children are looking at the NASA website. We want the project to be driven by the children, but see it as a source of numerous ideas. It has provided a resource for increasing children's knowledge and understanding of the world, for designing and making, and for improving listening and negotiation skills.
Our website address is: www.spaldwickschool.org.uk
Val Cameron, headteacher, Spaldwick Community Primary School, Cambridgeshire