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Inspiring pupils in space science

The University of Bradford is launching a new project to help teachers in primary schools inspire the next generation with science.

The project, called ‘Space in Schools’, is intended for primary schools and focuses on National Curriculum Key Stage 2 Science.

Using expertise from the University’s School of Informatics, extensive lesson support is delivered on the web with, for example, working models and simulations of day and night or the orbit of the Moon, backed up with student access to the Bradford Robotic Telescope on the island of Tenerife which can take pictures for the students to use in class to develop their understanding.

It is hoped that all primary schools in Bradford will subscribe, with pupils having access to the service from their school and from home.

Dr John Baruch, Head of Cybernetics, Internet and Virtual Systems at the University of Bradford, said: “Whilst the Government is making investment in science education and sees science at the heart of the future prosperity of the country, falling numbers of young people continuing with their science education is causing concern.

“Our initiative is designed to extend and reinforce the natural interest of many young people in space with a valuable service that will help teachers grappling with the challenge of illustrating, for example, how shadows produce the phases of the Moon or why the Australians don’t fall off the Earth.”

James Machell, Bradford Robotic Telescope Education Development Officer in the University’s School of Informatics, is leading the project. He said: “Teaching the abstract concepts found in even the very basic levels of astronomy is a challenge to teachers. Why we have day and night and showing how the Earth goes around the Sun is not easy in school.

“The telescope gives a hands-on and easy to understand approach to the subject of space science. Getting every pupil to take their own pictures is an electric experience in the classroom.

“A scientifically literate society is just as important as having scientists. Everyone should be able to discuss the issues within science and the affect that they have on our lives.”

The Space in Schools project has won acclaim from the Royal Astronomical Society and the Institute of Physics, who have also expressed concern over the numbers of students not following science subjects in their educational careers. It is hoped that once established in Bradford, the Space in Schools programme will be rolled out to other districts and regions.

Emma Banks | alfa
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