“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin
My workshop Deadly Moons has been presented on hundreds of occasions. Thousands of Irish school children have taken part and learnt something interesting. The title of the workshop has its roots in the expression ‘that’s deadly’. This is Irish street talk, which means, something is ‘Amazing’. Deadly Moons is built on a range of robotic space images coupled with some of my lunar sketches. From time to time I update the presentation to include images from Cassini, Mars Reconnaissance Obiter (MRO) and of course New Horizons.
I realised early on in my outreach efforts that most children and most adults are totally unaware that other moons exist. In general, people are not able to recognise moon phases. They are also unable to point out features on our moon. Our moon is in the sky for the duration of all our lives, it is therefore reasonable to understand something about it.
Deadly Moons is my way of addressing gaps in the understanding of our solar system. Within the presentation, there is scope to introduce moon terminology such as the terminator, limb, impact craters etc. These terms are common to all moons, thereby extending the learning to encompass Mimas, Enceladus and other extraordinary moons.
For me, there is nothing as good or as satisfying in education than to give up to date real-time knowledge to my audiences. The outstanding images from Cassini, MRO, Rosetta and other robotic missions continue to inspire my creativity in designing workshops for children.
During Deadly Moons the participants use soft pastels and black paper because this combination brings wonderful colour, blending and texture to a drawing. Generally I make sure to take time to explain that some of the images in the presentation are in false colour, some in true colour.
After I shared Deadly Moons with UNAWE (Universe Awareness for Young Children) this simple workshop took off. It was was presented by other educators in many countries. My workshop was also featured at various events. These include an exhibition at the opening of International Year of Astronomy 2009 in the UNESCO building Paris. An EU UNAWE event at Europe Kijkoagen in Brussels. Also at science events in Poland, The Netherlands, Vietnam, Ghana, and Hofstra University New York. The workshop was also featured in The National Exhibition Centre in Vancouver Canada. Reykjavik Iceland also took part to mention just a few.
Exhibitions extending learning
Whenever it was possible I exhibited children’s “Deadly Moon” drawings with astronomical drawings. Some of the best contemporary observers on the planet, on show among the giants of the past. In International Year of Astronomy 2009, I took great pleasure including the work of the late Sir Patrick Moore in the exhibition. In addition the event also included drawings by the Third Earl of Ross. The exhibition was on show at the Science Gallery at Birr Castle. This was so fitting because Birr Castle is the ancestral home of the 3rd Earl. Over 50 astronomical sketches were on display to the public.
Hofstra University New York, Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork, Dunsink Observatory in Dublin, and Dublin City Libraries all hosted variations of the exhibition. Sometimes a library or a school would exhibit the newly created drawings. This therefore enabled the parents and other school visitors to enjoy them. Occasionally this led to up to 700 drawings on exhibit in a school hall. Deadly Moons cross-pollinates Art, Science and ICT. The workshop encourages dialogue, imagination and hands-on learning.
In 2011 Deadly Moons was awarded the SPORE Prize (Science Prize for Online Resources in Education). The awarding body was the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A paper was published in conjunction with UNAWE in Science Magazine. Irish National Radio interviewed me about the achievement . This offered me an opportunity to give voice to the wonders and beauty of our solar system’s moons.
Understanding inspiration is like catching and harnessing the wind. It may have to be blowing for a while before it can return the original energy. Many people inspired me over the years. Jane Houston Jones JPL/ NASA, Guy Consolmagno (Director of the Vatican Observatory), Jan Visser (The Learning Development Institute/ UNESCO). Closer to home it was John Flannery (Irish Astronomical Society), Professor Carolina Odman – Govender ( Universidy of the Western Cape), Dr Marie Bruck (University of Edinburgh) and many others.
In turn, I have tried to inspire countless small faces and their teachers. Many schools use the workshop towards their Discover Primary Science Award. This is an accolade to encourage STEM in schools. The award is bestowed by Science Foundation Ireland to schools who fulfil the criteria of the scheme.
Perhaps it is impossible to measure inspiration; if it takes hold it is only the future that will unfold the ongoing story. Ripples through time, ripples moving forward. Dunamaise Arts Centre in Portlaoise Ireland was the venue for a session with a small group of enthused children. Their work is featured in the slides show below along with some of my favourite Deadly Moons drawings and images over the years.
Two groups of Irish children talk about Deadly Moons after taking part at Draoicht Arts Centre Blanchardstown Dublin.