Sun and Space Inspired Mobiles
Canonbury School, Islington, Year 5, 60 children
5 November 2018
Blog by Geraldine Cox and Helen Mason

(click on photos to see more)

What did the children learn? Lots of lovely practical science facts from the initial talk and carousel activities, then creativity and collaboration were two main ones from the Art.’ (Feedback from teacher, Rhiannon Beeton)

In November 2018, we had the privilege of working with teachers and children at Canonbury Primary School, Islington. Tanya Collins, science lead, and Rhiannan Beeton, art lead, helped us to develop this full day workshop, with meetings and planning prior to the activity day. To deliver this ambitious workshop, several other members of the SunSpaceArt team participated (Dr Helen Mason, Dr Dagny Kimberly Yousuf, Clare Dudeney and Christabel Forbes) led by Geraldine Cox. In addition, Mario Petrucci, a poet, led a session on literacy related to the Sun and space. We were introduced to Canonbury School by Carole Kenrick, a very dynamic primary teacher from Gillespie Primary School, who supports the development of Ogden Primary Partnerships, Phiz Labs and SHINE Labs across London. She came along and worked with us in the morning.

The day began with an interactive presentation by Dr Helen Mason about the Sun and space. She also answered lots of the childrens’ questions, such as ‘Will we ever be able to tread on another planet?’,’How does light travel?’, ‘What is hotter, the core of th Earth or the surface of the Sun?’, ‘Would you die if there was no light?’,’Can you touch the stars?’,’Do any other stars have names?’. So many great questions, it was hard to answer them all!

Afterwards, there was a carousel of science activities for the students to explore:

  1. How atoms absorb and release light as atomic spectra
  2. Vibrations and waves in light and in the Sun
  3. Making cyanotype artworks using the ultra violet light from the Sun
  4. How the world looks in infra-red light

The SunSpaceArt team provided little fold-out booklets for them to write notes and draw pictures. These activities were intensive, but worked really well. The teacher said: ‘The carousel of activities was great – lots of short bursts of input kept children interested, involved and engaged.’ There just wasn’t enough time.

Afterwards, inspired by what they had learnt in the morning, the students worked in small groups to design and construct mobiles, in the style of the artist Alexander Calder.

In a session led by Mario, they also had the opportunity to experiment with how words can express imaginative ideas about the Sun in poems, pictures and essays.

The children continued working in their little books throughout the day. The feedback from the children was very good. What did they say? They learnt lots of new things about the Sun and space. They loved the science activities ‘seeing the rainbow lines and looking through the spectroscopes’. Most of all they loved the art ‘The best part was making the mobiles because we got to use our imagination’, ‘I liked working as a team making the mobiles, because it was really fun including all our ideas’.

The teacher said: ‘the Art project was great – being able to see the full process of their work (ideas, creating, collaborating and then displaying) in one day.’  The new art room looked really beautiful, adorned by all their artwork.

It would be lovely to go back again, such a lively school and a warm welcome, but the final word should go to the teacher ‘Again, thank you for a wonderful day – I look forward to working with you all again. More of the same please!’