Did you know that there is a small crater on Mars called Maidstone, 10 km in size, named after the English town? It’s sited at the top of the Argyre Planitia in the southern hemisphere, just above the South Pole. This novel fact inspired the theme of the Maidstone International Art Festival (MIAF) this year.

Heather MacRae, Ideas Foundation (IF), Jancy McPhee, SciArt & associated with NASA, and Helen Schell, artist and ESERO-UK Space Ambassador were invited to run a series of school projects about Maidstone Crater in June this year. This ambitious education project set out to inspire and educate students from 5 Maidstone secondary schools, by uniting art and science using STEAM techniques to provide an inclusive learning experience.  The project was part funded by the Careers and Enterprise Company, Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Maidstone International Arts Festival.

This 3 day project was organised by Heather MacRae (IF) and Ken Scott (MIAF) and they invited the 5 schools below to participate with their own choice of Mars inspired creative art activities –

Invicta School – Group one created 3 large Martian landscapes using vivid paints, metallic minerals and mixed media to make rugged terrains representing the surface and craters of the red planet. They were also given iron ochres to replicate Martian soil.

The second group produced new designs for Mar rovers for a future era of human space travel. This was a design and technology activity using drawing and collage techniques.

Valley Park School – Group one developed a dramatic dance and oral performance inspired by HG Wells’ ‘War of the Worlds’ which was later filmed.

The second group wrote a series of beautiful short stories about Mars and the next human space adventure.

Cornwallis School – Poetry was the device to express their feelings about Mars with illustrations to extend the visual interest.

New Line Learning Academy – They created a 3d astronaut relief using mixed materials which included fabrics and paints inspired by ‘The Martian’ film.

Lenham School – Group one created Martian Fashions using smart materials, recycled goods and iron ochres to represent the challenges and aspirations of this new era. All costumes used iron ochre pigment to replicate Martian colours; CD’s & sequins are solar panels. The leaves represent the bringing of Earth life to Mars, buttons were to increase gravity or detect radiation. There are utility belts, air packs and robotic soil probes. The dresses were stunning. Other science groups were given human spaceflight presentations and talks using the SOKOL spacesuit.

 The variety of the school workshops was excellent and there was no prompting on their topics by the ‘Mars Team’. The successful combination of scientists with an interest in art and an artist with an interest in science meant the team could cover all aspects with ease informing students about Mars science, creative arts, fashion, and creative writing. There was also a Russian SOKOL spacesuit which took on its own personality and some smaller children were able to try it on making it very popular. Jancy McPhee, who has worked in association with NASA, runs the SciArt Exchange, which promotes international space art projects for children, presented specialist human space travel talks about the Mars missions. Artist, Helen Schell on behalf of the ‘SunArtSpace’ project, presented specialist art and Mars themed talks, as well as assisting with the creative process at each school enabling the students to complete their ambitious art projects within the tight timescale.

As a result of the positive outcome achieved using STEAM techniques, this challenging project was very well received by both students and teachers alike.  Several of the artworks were displayed at the Maidstone Museum and much admired.

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