Yes, it is rocket science

28th September 2007 at 01:00

If you've never made a fizzy pop rocket, then you should. By mixing vitamin C tablets and warm water in an airtight capsule, you can send it shooting into the air. I've seen one go right over the top of a house. Not surprisingly, young people love that kind of thing.

Last year, I devised a piece of GCSE coursework based around the rockets, where pupils experimented by varying the water temperature, the amount of tablet and the area of the nose cone. It captured everyone's imagination, especially the weaker candidates who sometimes struggle. Their enthusiasm spilled over into other parts of the syllabus and results went up by 15 per cent.

That's why space is such a brilliant learning tool. Everyone is fascinated by the idea of other planets and space exploration. Children have so many questions. It gets them thinking. And you can raise dry, difficult concepts such as weight and gravity in an interesting way.

One of the best things about the Space Camp training day is that you get a bag containing everything you need to do experiments and build rockets. As soon as you're back in the classroom, it's countdown to lift-off. You also get a DVD of space-related footage.

So, for example, you can ask children how they think certain toys would react in a zero-gravity environment. Then you can watch a clip of astronauts who actually took spinning tops and wind-up dogs into space with them and see how accurate people's predictions are.

In summer term, we now have a special Space Day. The Year 7s all plan an imaginary mission to Mars, build air-propelled rockets and find ways to land an egg dropped from two storeys up without it breaking. There's some fairly advanced physics going on, but no one really notices. They're too busy having fu *

Jane Holland-Lloyd teaches science at Cathays High School in Cardiff. She was talking to Steven Hastings

THE DETAILS

Space Camp is a two-day training course for primary and secondary teachers run by the International Space School Educational Trust.

Courses are being held on October 2-3 in London, 9-10 in Birmingham and December 4-5 in London and 10-11 in Birmingham. For future dates, visit www.isset.org or call Julie Woodcock on 02920 710295. First delegate: Pounds 360+ VAT. Additional: pound;135+VAT.

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