‘Today I was amazed by what we did and I am happy with what we made. It will sit on my bedroom window and I will remember everything we did’.
There were many proud and happy children in Wales last March (2018) when we, Sarah Bridgland (an artist) and Emma Wride (AstroCymru, also an ESRO-UK space ambassador), ran some SunSpaceArt workshops at the following schools:
Tremains Primary School – 60 yr 5/6 pupils
Litchard Primary School – 60 yr 5/6 pupils
Coychurch Primary School – 25 yr 5 pupils
Llanyravon Primary School – 53 yr 5 pupils (October 2018)
We used Elon Musk’s SpaceX launch of his red car as a hook to inspire a future generation of space scientists through the medium of art and science. We were very keen to build a workshop that looked forward to the future. We wanted the pupils to think about where we are heading, to be excited about and to imagine the possibilities, growth, and future jobs within space exploration.
Since the pupils had already covered the solar system, we decided to focus on exoplanet exploration. We discussed Kepler, and other telescopes that are being developed to look at the chemistry on exoplanets (NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, JWST). The pupils worked in groups to learn about other stars and researched how many planets they had and how far away these solar systems are from ours. To fire the imagination, Emma talked about the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ and whether or not there might be other life out there!
We wanted the pupils to go on an imaginary journey – to go to an exoplanet and think about what the conditions might be like there. There were three core art activities – to design a space suit that would be suitable to wear on their exoplanet, to make a vehicle/craft that could get them there (using a matchbox!), and lastly, to design and write a postcard home. We wanted there to be a storytelling/imaginative element that wove the three activities together, supported by the science that Emma had presented. We also used Elon Musk’s recent venture to encourage the pupils to think beyond a rocket for the second activity!
It was an incredibly full and inspiring three days, and a pleasure to work with all the teachers and pupils. Logistically it was quite challenging, partly because of the numbers and layout of classrooms, and the acoustics of some spaces – but the pupils seemed to really relish the chance to be making, and in particular, to be using their imagination – fueled by the incredible facts that Emma had presented. We encouraged the pupils to play with the materials as much as possible and wanted them to realize that there is no right or wrong when it comes to making. Many pupils seemed daunted by this freedom at first but gained confidence in their own decisions as they progressed.
Going forward it would be good to mix up the group/individual work and experiment with different layouts in the classroom to see how this would enhance learning/making. We’d love pupils to work in groups to design their space suits. Lying down on a giant roll of paper and drawing round each other would be great fun, then everyone could draw/annotate onto this outline. Christine, one of the brilliant teachers at Coychurch, suggested we use fabric/textile swatches in designing the space suit and we would love to use this idea in our future workshops!
What did the children think about the workshops? ‘Making my spaceship was the best part because I used my imagination and this definitely helped me to focus more on space, because it was more fun doing activities’. ‘Amazing facts! Brilliant art! I really liked making my spaceship. All round amazing!’ ‘I loved this experience. It’s nice to just have one thing that lets my imagination run wild’, ‘I really want to learn more about space!’, ‘I learnt that space is a huge place that can be explored and researched’, ‘I lerant how to be more ceative’.
Thumbs up, looks like there are some future space engineers and scientists in Wales.