The Sun, Our Star, in Sunderland
STEAM – Solar Satellite Booklet Project
Northern Saints CE Primary School, Sunderland, Year 6, 60 children
29 June 2018
Blog by Helen Schell

(click on photos to see more)

‘The children absolutely loved the workshop. The attitude of some of our most challenging children was great. They were engaged and interested.’ (science teacher, Calum Rowland)

Northern Saints CE Primary School in Sunderland looks very impressive when you visit, with lots of art and crafts in the playground area, entrance and hallways.

Helen Schell, a Sunderland based artist and ESERO-UK Space Ambassador, and Dr Helen Mason, a solar scientist from the University of Cambridge, ran a SunSpaceArt workshop there in June 2018. The activities began with interactive talks covering solar and space science linked with art (STEAM). An animated Q&A session enabled the children to begin their creative journey and start planning their solar satellite booklets. Then each of the two Y6 classes had a two hour creative making session.

The children were asked to create a small booklet in the form of an orbiting solar satellite which sends back a data stream of information to the Earth about the Sun. This enabled them to think about light, energy, scale, and distances within the context of space science, the ESA/UK astronaut Tim Peake’s mission on the International Space Station, ISS, and the solar system. This included the effect that the Sun has on the Earth and their lives, which was particularly relevant on the hottest day of the year in Sunderland!

Artist, Helen Schell, showed them examples of experimental and inventive books and techniques, which use cutting, folding, drawing and collage techniques. The ‘data stream’ required them to write out facts and information in their satellite booklets communicating what they had learnt during the workshop. They were also encouraged to include some poetry and stories. For reference and inspiration, they had STFC Sun brochures, some additional laminated fact sheets and images.

These techniques allow all children to create exciting booklets whatever their previous knowledge, experience and individual abilities. Many children exceeded the task they were shown by inventing their own folding and cutting techniques to create innovative satellite booklets, which expressed detailed science through adventurous design methods. There is always the potential for the school to take these concepts further for bigger and longer projects.

Some feedback from the children included ‘totally new experience’, ‘exciting’, ‘loved the task’, ‘love the link between science and art’, ‘chance to be creative’, ‘let loose, freedom to do what we wanted’, ‘no limitation’. We are very pleased that our activities are inclusive and engage all the children. In fact, the teachers at the school were so keen that they invited us back for the next school year to run a specialist Moon themed project, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo landing. We thank Lorraine Coghill, Ogden Trust and Science Outreach Co-ordinator at Durham University for putting us in touch with this school.