Science Week 2016 was the 21st iteration of this infectious annual event . My involvement has been ongoing since 2007. A multitude of varied engagements are supported and promoted by Science Foundation Ireland. The aim is to stimulate interest in a broad range of sciences. Science Week makes the often complex world of science totally digestible to every person who embraces it. The programs are targeted towards school children and their teachers plus the public at large. Science Week touches almost everyone in this country via TV, Radio, Social media, publications and apps. Nationwide road shows, workshops and talks go directly to schools,libraries and other centres. The magic and wonder of many sciences shared with tremendous enthusiasm and smiles by a host of participants.
This year my offerings were two drawing workshops Deadly Moons and Marvellous Mars plus a special Constellation session for local cub scouts. The workshops were attended by 800 children in 10 venues over 11 days in 5 counties in Ireland. 800 individual drawings of moons in our solar system or drawings of the surface of Mars.
Yes indeed that is the result of 27 workshops during Science Week 2016. Hence Science Week is for me far from a week, it inevitably captures other days spreading fun and education in tandem. Science Week 2016
Marvellous Mars celebrates the rich outstanding images taken by robotic cameras on Mars or in orbit around it. Many of the images I show and speak about are from one of the best cameras in space i.e. the HiRise camera on Mars Reconnaissance Obiter (MRO). NASA’s Curiosity was also particularly to the fore this year as Science Week occured just before the 5th anniversary of the launch of this one ton car to the Martian surface. To enhance the children’s experience I made a model of Mars from a large polystyrene ball with the landing places of the rovers and other exploration vehicles in situ. HiRise
To have this Mars model in the room with its main features also carved into the surface was extremely useful from both a visual and tactile point of view. The same kinesthetic learning was enhanced by bringing my Mars south pole painting along . The paint is used very thickly , craters rims are defined as are layers of ice. Just for fun I included a metal model of the Curiosity rover having a fantasy tour over the Martian surface.
One of my endearing memories is of a little boy in a library in Co Leitrim . As an extra treat I usually show a funny or inspiring video after the workshops. That day I was showing ESA’s Moon Village which introduces the concept of building a village on the far side of our moon with the participation of all space nations. After seeing the video the boy came to me and said ” If they (meaning ESA) want me I am ready for it ” he was totally serious about signing up to go to the moon to help build this space station. I had to admire his spirit of exploration and his belief in himself even though he was only 10 years old. Moon Village by ESA
Another interesting thing happened during a Deadly Moon workshop for young children , they were about 6 and 7. Everyone was drawing away doing their best with Mimas or Titan . Two little girls were on the floor drawing however I couldn’t figure out what they were trying to draw. Then when they added their titles “The Deadly Moon” I realised that they were so young and lovely that they thought our moon was called The Deadly Moon . After all every other moon has a name and ours is just The Moon. These little children had taken me literally when I told the story of how I named the workshop . I named it Deadly Moons because when I show children our moon through my telescope they often say ” That’s Deadly ” In Ireland saying something is Deadly means it is totally cool. This year it was wonderful to have images of Pluto’s moon Charon via New Horizons . Skywalker crater was a sure winner with many children and Mordor brought smiles of pride to the children who could name the book in which this fictional land existed. During my Marvellous Mars workshop I show Deimos one of Mars moons. A famous Irish writer Jonathan Swift has a crater named for him on this icy moon. Very few children knew his name but almost all of them had seen Gulliver’s Travels in the movies . Many of my workshops took place in libraries it was therefore opportune to encourage reading the book , the many yes nodding librarians agreed.
My first two workshops were specially designed for the 11th Wicklow Cub Scouts Kilmacanogue . They do great work every Tuesday evening in the local parish hall . 40 cub scouts boys and girls together in two groups took part . I kept it simple, a presentation about two constellations one circumpolar , one a winter constellation . Ursa Major and Orion drawn in pencil , dot to dot on blank pages. The children were producing their own maps so they could find the patterns in the sky for themselves in the following weeks. There was great attention to detail and satisfaction in their work. We also looked at Mars and learnt some of it features as well as figuring out where it was in the sky using Stellarium . The sessions for the cub scouts acted as a progression towards a rainbow of achievements. The educational program is pointed toward rounding the children in many areas from character development, social skills, and intellectual reflection. It is a personal journey which involves planning , doing and evaluating activities as they grow up in the organisation. Several of the cubs have since used their drawings to find both Orion and Ursa Major in the night sky. So you may well ask why not use an app? Not every child has a phone and the personal attention to the star pattern via drawing has that extra absorbtion, proactive learning, hands on action.
The most popular choices when it came to the drawings were Sunset on Mars by Curiosity, Impact craters , Dust Devils and sand in craters on Mars. Deadly Moon popular choices were Mimas , Titan and Enceladus. Occasionally Atlas and Phobos drawings broke the trend, there were some exceptional drawings from both workshops. Several schools held exhibitions in the following days and encouraged the children to do some research and writing on their drawing choices . Curiosity Rover
A selection of images are in the slide show.