March was so busy, with the culmination of some of our major events, that April has been a month where we have taken a moment to reflect on the project so far and what it has meant to us as a team and as a school. Many opportunities to share our work with other schools are opening up to us and it is important that we move forward in the most effective way possible. The UK Space Agency has this month sent out a letter promoting Tim Peake’s mission to all schools in the country, both primary and secondary. Our passports would perfectly complement this approach, providing a very structured means of learning about the science of space across all year groups and through STEM subjects. Without a doubt, everyone we encounter seems to feel that we have an excellent resource and several organisations have expressed an interest in having their own page of objectives.
What we really need is some sponsorship so that we can offer the passports to schools at a subsidised rate. Online versions have been suggested, but we feel strongly that it is the tangibility of this high quality, personalised document, which is stamped every time an objective is met, that has captured the imagination of our children and made them eager to discover what they will be focusing on next.
April has also been the month for gathering our footage together to make sure that we will be able to do justice to our story. Fifteen minutes is not a great deal of time to put our message across, so it will need to be very well crafted and conceived. It has certainly been very enjoyable looking back and rediscovering some of our epic moments.
So what’s been happening in other areas of the project? The positive impact of peer mentoring has certainly featured highly . . .
John Randall – Although the Mission X program officially closed its window for adding points to its database in March, at Rode Heath we have continued with the physical activities. Introducing Mission X to Rode Heath as part of the ‘Out of This World’ project has had a significant impact on physical education at the school. Children now have more enthusiasm and incentive to enhance their own fitness and endurance. We have engaged all pupils in Mission X, which has been very rewarding, especially for those who wouldn’t normally have been so keen on physical activity. Children are still trying to beat their times and improve their fitness. The impact will affect the athletic competitions and other sports tournaments taking place in the future as children have developed more stamina and drive to win! As a teacher, this experience has given me confidence to deliver Mission X P.E. activities to other schools wishing to take part in the program next year. It has also clearly demonstrated the power of peer mentoring in motivating children to take on board what they are being taught. As a result, more time is made available for facilitating and assessing the next steps, whilst the children take control of their own learning. I wholly intend to use peer mentoring in other areas of P.E. such as invasion games, striking and fielding and net games! This will not only increase confidence and motivation in the mentors, but potentially lead to benefits in all areas of the curriculum with the development of communication and personal skills as well as leadership qualities.
Sharron Ross – The Out of This World project has assisted greatly in implementing and raising the profile of computing throughout the school. Applications such as A.L.E.X and Kodable have lent themselves perfectly to the programming objectives, particularly as they are space themed. These applications have been successfully implemented in KS1 with the Year 2 children taking the lead. The project, coupled with a dedicated programming week, has also given members of our Code Club an excellent opportunity to go into classes and deliver simple Scratch training to their peers. This mentoring opportunity has been invaluable as it has raised the children’s self-esteem and sent a powerful message to other pupils. Indeed, teachers have been astounded by the quality of the delivery, which has allowed staff to learn from the children as well. Code Club have also been inspired to submit an entry to Tim Peake’s Astro Pi competition. Again, the project has made programming purposeful and the children are enthused about future Raspberry Pi activities for the summer term. Furthermore, this provides another excellent opportunity to upskill the junior children who will then return to class and cascade these newly found skills through teaching their peers.
Carl Leech – Exposing children to the ‘leading edge’ technology of 3D printing has been hugely motivational. The vast majority of children approached this project without any preconceived ideas of how they would perform. Their growth mind set (Dweck, 1999) of ‘I can succeed’ has been relentless. The task set for each child to produce two prints – one for Tim Peake to use on the ISS and one for themselves – has given them the opportunity to innovate, design, produce and evaluate their work. These skills are those needed for the knowledge economy that Britain must invest in, in order to remain and further develop as a hub for research and development.
As 3D design and print lead, I have myself, been on a learning journey. Having some IT capability I was not daunted by the prospect of undertaking this task, but actually extremely excited at challenging myself to learn new skills and plan the work flow that would cascade this learning, eventually leading to 200 children and 20 staff using CAD software and 3D printing/scanning technology. The timeline and milestones have, for the most part been met. The early frustration in the project around connectivity and network issues proved to fuel my determination to succeed. The Year 5 3D print mentors have proved indispensable. We have now worked with 120 children and will move to the final three classes in the summer term. The engagement with parents as partners, in particular with fathers, has been an unexpected, but a hugely positive development. Many parents want to support their child’s learning and using the online software Tinkercad has made the process accessible for all.
Caroline Sinclair – The launch of our ‘Ballistic Balloon’ provided the children with a variety of opportunities to engage in stimulating mathematical activities. Many classes have made and investigated parachutes, for which accurate measuring and timing has been of great importance. Data handling activities have included finding the average time for a parachute to reach the ground – what impact does size and weight have on this? The children also enjoyed working out how far into the atmosphere the ‘Ballistic Balloon’ travelled, which involved converting between units of measurement and estimating how many miles away the payload would land when it came back to earth. Data from the on board equipment has included information about temperature, pressure, position and altitude and we are looking forward to using the tracking devices in our own ground-based activities next term. Indeed, as the weather has begun to improve, it has been a joy to see the children regularly running around the outside of our school field, stop watch in hand, trying to improve their lap times. It is experiences like these that reinforce the fact that maths is an integral part of many aspects of our lives.
Clare Pheasey – MMU’s partnership in the ‘Out of this World’ project has continued to gather momentum over the past couple of months, with a series of opportunities for both staff and students. Our multidisciplinary backing for this project has allowed the Faculty’s IT Services Team to showcase their support potential through the Google Hangout with Tim (a first for the university); whilst the Print Services Team took great pride in creating the stickers for the ‘Ballistic Balloon’ experience – not to mention the Technical Team, who have built and restored telescopes in preparation for the Year 5 residential to York at the end of April. On a more personal note, in my role as the Department’s Principal Lecturer for Student Experience, our partnership with Rode Heath continues to provide fantastic opportunities for undergraduate students. The value they are gaining by peer mentoring both reinforces their own knowledge of Sport Science and helps to generate evidence to enhance future CVs.
Reach of the project . . . Our Twitter account continues to flourish with over 300 followers to date. These include parents, pupils and many prominent educational and space organisations. Indeed, we now find we are being asked for advice on how to run various ‘space events’ by local science groups. One of our key followers is Tim Peake, who remains a strong supporter of our project, communicating personally with team members, as well as pupils and parents. We feel very privileged to have received such backing from Tim – more recently endorsing our space passports – and continue to relish the opportunity to talk ‘space’ with him. In addition, our https://outofthisworldproject.com/ website is reaching an ever widening community with schools following our blogs and using the ideas and resources we are beginning to develop. We have had more than 5,000 views of our Google Hangout and statistics indicate that we have had visitors from all over the world.