POLEGATE JUNIOR SCHOOL - Monday 20th February
This has to be the most rewarding astronomy presentation that I have EVER done. It was so far from a presentation. The moment I sat down amidst two classes of 9/10 year olds and announced we were going to take a very big journey, I knew that I was about to take a very big journey too.
This was my first astro-outing with youngsters. I was a little anxious about the right approach, concerned that I might talk 'at them' rather than to them. I hadn't wanted it that way ... so started by sitting with them and asking a question or two. I needn't have worried. I don't think there was ever a moment when at least ten eager young hands were not in the air busting out of themselves with questions! What a fabulous group of youngsters! So insightful with their questions too! Their enthusiasm was overwhelming. The joy and wonder in their eyes was so heart-warming, not to say tear-jerking at one point. We spent an hour trying to reach the planets - but I had to stop so many times because of the constant, wonderful questioning! What a journey! After an hour, we had to surrender the big assembly hall for another class to enter. The teacher asked if I minded continuing - of course, I didn't, but I was concerned that the youngsters might have had enough and said as much ... to which they overwhelmingly screamed and shouted, "No, they hadn't!" So we resumed in a classroom, where I then had to clamber in over them because there wasn't an inch of space where they all crammed in on the floor!I stepped in amongst them and asked if their brains were hurting yet? Again, an overwhelming, "No!" resounded! How fantastic is that? So on we travelled from Jupiter.
I have to say, this truly was the most moving, rewarding, uplifting presentation I have ever given. To witness those lovely young faces hanging on to every word, laughing, gasping and just busting out of themselves with enthusiasm was just so uplifting.
And how bright they are! Two hours later we finally made our Milky Way Galaxy and the concept of the lightyear which was grasped instantly! If only I could convey their faces and their awe!
Nik Szymanek, renowned astro-imager, had warned me there would be questions. Lots of questions. Oh, how right he was! I was overwhelmed. Ultimately, we were forced to stop with still at least twenty hands waving wildly in the air! How brilliant is that?Just the most amazing experience. The children thanked me profusely. But, for me, it was the other way around. I thanked them - for reaffirming my love of astronomy, of life, and for all the fun and joy they imparted to me throughout the afternoon. How heartwarming is it to know that these young minds are so enquiring, so open to inspiration and to knowledge. Never think that our children are not interested because, oh my Lord, they are! They are desperately interested! To the point that one child, I was informed, had what is known as 'attention deficit disorder'. The child normally would not concentrate or keep still for more than a few minutes during lessons. This afternoon, that child was riveted for the entire two hours, sat perfectly still and only stirred to gasp at the concepts.
How fabulous is this!
So ... an enormous thank you to all those wonderful children who made me feel so welcome and who made it such an unforgettable afternoon. It is an astronomy talk that will stay with me, always.