After a couple of talks about the recent partial solar eclipse, I knew that my next astronomy talks for Alfriston Village School were a given!
Sure enough, as part of National Science Week, I was invited to return to share three talks with an amalgam of five classes, ages ranging from five to eleven years. I knew it would be fun, and it most assuredly was! Excitement was off the scale, fabulously so, heightened further by the fact that a good friend of mine, Geoff Shaw, very kindly brought his solar scope into the playground for the children to gaze at the Sun.
Hilary Ungoed, Head Science Teacher, had intimated that she wanted the children to learn about environments and human exploration in space. For me, it was a pleasure to begin with our precious planet, Earth, explaining why it is so precious and sharing with all the children the beauty of all the flora and fauna in the woods, jungles, deserts and oceans. Personally, it was SO fantastic to see the delight on their faces as stunning images of our planet, and the creatures upon it, filled their eyes and fired their senses. They soaked it up and, as per last time, I had to periodically halt to allow them to share their excitement with each other – just overwhelming.
From Earth, we ventured to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune as I shared with them their respective birth and evolution. It blew their minds that Mercury was so hot, and why; that Venus was smothered in thick cloud enabling her to shine so brightly; that Mars had enormous volcanoes and the great Mariner Valley; that Jupiter was so immense but some of its moon harboured oceans and perhaps life; why Saturn had rings and their composition, why Uranus was turquoise with incredible storms and Neptune so blue with winds reaching supersonic speeds. To finish, we discussed exoplanets, how many stars there could be, the potential for life …
Throughout, I was bombarded by questions, many so insightful and thought-provoking, it was an utter joy to share my answers.
As before, I have to say, I love sharing this subject, as always with adults but, especially, with youngsters; their unfettered enthusiasm and wonder is truly awe-inspiring.
As if a tour of the solar system was insufficient, after each talk the teachers took the classes into the playground where, amazingly, beneath cloudless cobalt blue skies, Geoff was able to show all the children the activity on the Sun through his solar scope. We were blessed because not only did the clouds keep away but the Sun performed. Oh boy, were we lucky! On the lower limb was the biggest prominence both Geoff and me had ever seen! It was monumentally huge! So you can only but imagine the gasps of delight and “Wows!” as one by one the youngsters were able to SEE what I had shared with them about the partial solar eclipse and reasons for the diversity of the planets.
From left: Geoff, myself and a pupil enjoying fabulous views of a very active Sun.
A perfect, perfect day!
An enormous thank you to the Head Teacher, Lindsey, Head Science Teacher, Hilary, and all the lovely, far-sighted teachers at the school. They are doing wonderful work with the children and the evidence is there for all to see.
And an equally enormous thank you to Geoff for sharing his solar scope and providing what really was the icing on the proverbial astronomy cake for all those lovely, amazing youngsters.