Students reach for the stars at the Institute of Astronomy

On the 23rd and 24th of January new Cambridge LaunchPad associate partner, the Institute of Astronomy, welcomed Y6 students from Cherry Hinton C of E Primary School and Cambridge Home Educated Families to take part in practical activities to learn more about astronomy.

Students were greeted at the Madingley Observatory by Dr Matthew Bothwell who led the students to discover more about our solar system and galaxies before teaching them how physics is applied in astronomy. As well as having a tour to see some of the telescopes and equipment used at the observatory, students were encouraged to use their creativity to learn more about some of the science used in research.

One Year 6 student from Cambridge Home Educated Families, said

“ I liked being able to test my creativity whilst learning more about astronomy. I had never been that close to a telescope before and it was so cool to be able to see one that works in real life.”

Each student made their own spectroscope used to split light sources into a spectrum, designed an exoplanet and created a space mission thinking about some of the challenges they may face. Some of their ideas included a candy planet with marshmallow clouds, a planet of cold fire and hot ice and a planet with a species of multi-coloured aliens.

Dr Matthew Bothwell, Outreach officer at the University of Cambridge Institute of Astronomy and the Kavli Institute shared how young people can learn from Astronomy.

“Astronomy is an ideal vehicle for doing STEM outreach. You can introduce scientific concepts in fun and approachable ways.”

Cambridge LaunchPad believes that STEM subjects can teach young people more than just subject matter. Over the course of the day students are encouraged to develop soft skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving and curiosity. At the end of the project day students who have best shown their understanding of these values are recognised and rewarded with an invitation to the award ceremony and additional trip at the end of the academic year.

Mrs P. Yoxen, Headteacher at Cherry Hinton CofE Primary School, attended the project day with the students.

“The LaunchPad programme enriches the curriculum and brings the STEM subjects alive for children. It is inspiring to visit the Madingley Observatory and listen to all the discoveries of astronomers and engage in science activities.”

If you want to find out about how you can get your students involved with these exciting opportunities, please visit: www.cambridge-launchpad.com

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