What can I say? I love sharing astronomy with children. The awe and excitement that floods the classrooms fills me with a deep and lasting joy.
So it was, at the instigation of Sylvia Daw, and with the wonderful open-mindedness of the Head Teacher, Lindsey Hudson, and supporting teachers, I was invited to join two classes during the morning of Thursday 19 March to share with the children the imminent solar eclipse.
Truly, how refreshing that all the teachers wanted the children to understand what they could be seeing.
First, I was joined by a full class of 5 to 7 year olds. Oh, wow! Their excitement was palpable as they entered the room and gathered around the screen, but as one image of the Sun after another filled their eager eyes, there were endless exclamations, screams, laughter and conversation. In fact, at one point, the science teacher, Hilary, had to stop the presentation to give the children some 30 seconds or so to share their excitement with each other. I’ve never seen or heard anything like it – because they just burst with things to say to each other, to me, to their teachers. How can I put that into words? Not possible! But I can certainly express how my heart lifted to witness their genuine joy and jubilation. Bless them!
There was a great clamouring of questions – always insightful and incisive. Love it! I hope I found the right way to answer them! But it was a sea of arms waving as a torrent of questions fired at me, or some children simply shared the fact that they had telescopes, that they had seen the Moon through binoculars, or the planet Jupiter. How marvellous is that?
In the time allocated, I particularly wanted to share with them that fact that our Sun is a star, not dissimilar from all the other stars out there. I wanted them to know how it was born, what it really looked like. Periodically, briefly, all went quiet as I showed them what they could see the next morning as the Moon passed before the Sun. The look of wonder in their eyes filled my soul.
The second class of 8 to 11 year olds was no less thrilling and fulfilling. With my trusty basketball acting as a prop for the Sun, I was able to share with them how tiny our planet is – something that had never entered their heads. I also shared with them how our Sun was born, how it would die, but also how tiny it is compared to other stars … which seemed to blow their enquiring minds! And all that before even a mention of the partial eclipse! Wonderful stuff!
I loved sharing it … and I would like to say a really big thank you to the Alfriston Village School Head Teacher, all the other teachers, Sylvia and, especially, the wonderful children who welcomed me so heartily and with whom I had such fun, excitement and a deep, deep joy.
And I will be heading back. As part of the National Science Week, I’ll be sharing more astronomy with the children, and, as an added bonus, will be joined by my friend, Geoff Shaw, who will bring his solar scope to the school … to enable all the children to see the Sun safely, to witness for themselves what I had shared in many colourful images … and to, hopefully, atone for what some of the clouds may have perhaps denied as the eclipse finally went ahead. Watch this space!
Finally, what lingers in my mind about that morning? The fact that as the science teacher and I walked past a classroom just as I was leaving, a little boy turned to us, beaming, and pronounced, joyfully … “The Sun is a star!”
What more need be said …