We had the first-ever Irish Astronomy Week in March. For this inaugural set of events, I offered my new workshop, Let’s Draw Our Moon with Deirdre. This workshop mirrors the online workshop I made for the Mayo Science Festival. The difference is that I am in the room drawing, and the children follow along.
Big sheets of paper were required for me to carry this out. Every participant needed to see what I was doing clearly. I brought along one of my larger drawing boards to facilitate. I debated with myself about what materials would be best to use. Painting is messy, and children tend to add too much water. They also tend to knock over jars of water that could destroy their work. So once again, I decided on soft pastels and chalk being the most efficient and visually perfect for drawing.
Pastels can also be messy, but hand wipes at the right moments fix that.
Step by Step
We took it slow, one simple step at a time. The children were younger than expected, but the class listened to me and followed instructions well. Soon, each child outlined the main dark Maria shapes on their A3 sheets. They then filled in the outlines in black pastels using their fingers, making time for hand wipes before continuing. OK, I know Maria appear to be grey to the eye, but I wanted the contrast between each Mare and the Highlands to stand out.
The children may have yet to look at our moon in the night sky and notice the shapes. The object of the workshop was to embed the shapes of Maria on the page in their heads. So that when they looked at the moon again, those shapes would be recognised easier and defined to their eyes.
We discussed how the moon looks to the eye and why it appears to be a creamy yellow. The children collectively could reproduce extensive linear features very well but were a bit more hesitant about drawing fiddly elements.
Latin or English
However, overall the work they succeeded in producing was great for their age. It was also an excellent effort on their part because the subject was all new to them. Another thing I debated with myself about was whether I should use the Latin name for the Mare / Maria or the English equivalent. I used Latin words in the past because I figured most eight-year-olds know some Latin even though they are unaware they know any. Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus and a litany of dinosaur names can flow from the average child with little prompting.
The English terms won on this occasion as they were first-time moon kids. Also, here in Ireland, there are an increasing number of Ukrainian children in Irish schools due to the war in their homeland. So they are learning English, and every little helps.
The children notated the Maria in English directly from my slides. As they wrote in The Ocean of Storms, I told them about the curved bay some had included in their drawings. The Bay of Rainbows in the Ocean of Storms. There was a collective awwwwww and an evident empathy to that description.
To finish it, I showed the “We are Going” Artemis video, which they enjoyed after including the landing area on their drawings. Everyone got Irish Astronomy Week bookmarks and notes from me with moon facts. A lovely warm response from the teachers and the library. Hopefully, Irish Astronomy Week will become an annual set of events.