SunSpaceArt Bonanza in Barking
Northbury Primary School, Barking, Yr 5, four classes of 30.
20 February and 27 March 2017
Blog by Helen Mason

(click on photos to see more)

Sun and space collages

Space and printing

‘Today I loved this lesson because the science and art inspired me.’ (child)

The children at Northbury Primary School are a lively, intelligent and animated bunch. They are very knowledgeable about science, and had been doing lots of activities related to space, for example Mission X, and activities related to ESA/UK astronaut Tim Peake’s flight on the ISS. Indeed, a group of students and their enthusiastic teacher, Kulvinder Johal, even went to the ESA Astronaut Centre to meet Tim Peake just after he came back down to Earth. That was such a thrill for them.

On 20 February and 27 March 2017, the SunSpaceArt team ran two full day workshops with the four classes in Year 5. This was quite a challenge since there were so many children. On the first visit, Dr Helen Mason, solar scientist, was accompanied by Geraldine Cox and Clare Dudeney, both artists. Heather MacRae, Venture Thinking and the Ideas Foundation, also came along and brought the Sokol space suit, which is as always very popular. Urmila Mitra, another solar scientist also came along to help out. The classes did different activities, some did story books, some made printing templates, and some did collages. We had hoped to rotate these activities, but there was not enough time. We started with science talks, with Q/A’s, and provided resources and information. The children absolutely loved the short video which showed the sizes of the Sun in comparison to the planets and to other stars.

They found it a little difficult to get started with their art work, but once they had, with the help of SunSpaceArt team members, there was no stopping them. They produced amazingly creative pieces of art, some of which were deep and quite abstract. At the end of the day, they shared the work they had done with each other, and the teachers later displayed it. Take a look at Geraldine’s thoughts on the day, ‘Reflections from a pale blue dot‘, on her website (

Printing from templates

Travel posters

Second SunSpaceArt  Workshop at Northbury Primary School

On the second visit, we were keen to consolidate some of the science learning. The children had asked us so many questions (verbally and on post-it notes), such as: ‘Can you live on Mars? Is Mars hot or cold? Why do stars grow and destroy planets? How many big stars are there that we know about? How old is the Earth and the Sun? Why do the planets stay in space? If there were no Earth, what would be the best planet to live on?’. We tried to answer as many questions as possible, but it was just impossible to answer them all.

The team members for the second visit were Dr Helen Mason, Geraldine Cox and Clare Dudeney again, but we also had an additional artist, Christabel Forbes, who proved to be very popular. The aim was to complete the art printing project. In addition, we asked children in other classes to make colourful posters about travelling to different destinations on Earth and in space, the solar system and beyond. Some chose destinations in the north, where the aurora could be viewed. We had told them about the Northern Lights, the aurora, which is caused by activity on the Sun and is spectacular. We had also told them that Tim Peake saw it many times during his flight on the ISS, and had told us how beautiful it is from space. Other children made posters of journeys to space. All of the posters were beautiful and informative.

It has been a real pleasure to work with the teachers and children at Northbury Primary School, although also quite challenging for the SunSpaceArt team. We hope to work with them again.

We had some lovely feedback from the children and the teachers, such happy memories. Some feedback from the children: ‘Today was fun and I got to know lots of stuff, like the Sun is not the only big star’. ‘Today I enjoyed it because it was science and art combined. I enjoyed the second half because you could use your imagination and a lot of different materials’. ‘ This day was too…. amazing for me to believe. I learnt much more about space and the solar system.’  ‘Today I learnt how to make an art piece about space. I loved it. It was fun and relaxing and nice. I learnt a lot’. ‘ My art is about a rocket going up to Mars and it took a long time to get there’.

There was also good feedback from the teachers, such as: They really enjoyed the talk by Helen and some of the things she showed. It sparked interest with the science lovers and they were so keen to tell me what they learnt when we got back in class. They absolutely loved the art session where they were making the collage. They got so engrossed in it. They were asking really good questions.’