January 2015

This month has heralded the news that we have all been waiting for: we finally have a confirmed date from ESA (European Space Agency) for our Skyping session with Tim Peake. This is a tremendous coup, as he is much in demand at the moment. Obviously we have proved through our excellent space work that we are worthy of his attention.

January was also the launch of Mission X, the Train like an Astronaut element of our project. To mark the event, we took all the Junior children to the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) Cheshire campus, where they worked with sport scientists from the Department of Exercise and Sport Science to complete a series of space-themed fitness activities, including experiencing temperatures of -200C in their environmental chamber facility (used by elite athletes such as Sarah Storey, in preparation for competitions in a variety of environments). The children were able to measure their own fitness using specialised equipment and resources that would not normally be accessible at Key Stage 2. A variety of data was collected, relating to lung capacity, stamina and power, which will be used by the children in our maths week at the end of the month. Present at the event was Heather MacRae, who runs Mission X on behalf of the UK Space Agency. She was clearly impressed by the collaboration between the undergraduate students and the children and by the Rode Heath Out of This World project. As a result, she has invited us to take 3 children to an event in March hosted by the Parliamentary Space Committee in the House of Commons – what an experience that will be! You can read all about the launch on the Mission X website http://trainlikeanastronaut.org/content/x-marks-start-mission-x/011815

It is indeed amazing how many opportunities our Out of This World project seems to be opening up. For example, as a direct result of being involved with Mission X, we have identified a real need for a simple means of analysing the data collected, so that any changes can be assessed and the effectiveness of the programme can be evaluated for its participants, particularly the children. Consequently, we intend to explore the possibility of developing a joint Rode Heath/MMU Analysis of Fitness component for the Train like an Astronaut programme which will comprise a package of specialist equipment, lesson resources (which data to analyse and how) and video demonstrations. The hope is that this would then become available to local schools who are interested in participating in Mission X in the future. Who knows how much further the resources might spread, given the funding!

Without a doubt, at Rode Heath we strongly believe that the elements of our Out of This World project, as well as being fun, need to be purposeful and have a real and measureable outcome. Maths plays a vital role in this objective and I am delighted with the way that it is now starting to spread through increasing areas of the curriculum. This was evident towards the end of our first week back, when we enjoyed two excellent Art days creating giant wicker sculptures, based on a space theme, as well as producing a variety of rockets; paintings using different media and mini-aliens. Alongside the messiness of glue and paint, we took the opportunity to identify 3D shapes; measured the circumference of our heads for our space helmets; used multilink in KS1 to measure the height of our rockets; and investigated ratio and proportion in the building of the giant astronaut. Maths is often a subject that instils fear into children. This project is a way of making maths fun.

3D Printing Update

Having explored several different avenues, we have now selected Tinkercad as the preferred software tool for 3D modelling and design across the school. Tinkercad is an online programme which will allow the school to bypass some of the technical issues that were being experienced with regard to connectivity and enable the children’s 3D design ideas to become a reality. Initially, we decided to trial the software with the Year 5 class. Before embarking on their own creations, the children were asked to complete a series of online demonstrations in which they created different 3D models. This has given them a real appreciation of the product’s design capabilities. Having become more familiar with the software, they have now been set the task of designing a tool for Tim Peake to take on his journey to the ISS in November!

The fact that TInkercad is both online and free means that, if they wish, children can spend time at home honing their designs with the help of their parents. And there seems to be no problem with motivation! The whole school is buzzing and indeed parents are coming into school expressing a desire to become involved. We look forward to printing their results. Once the Year 5s have developed their skills, they will act as 3D design mentors for the rest of the school as this element of our project moves forward.

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