The latest instalment of the Wycliffe Prep School Exploration Days took flight on Wednesday 28th September, with pupils in Years 3, 4, 5 & 6 thoroughly enjoying a morning with the UK Space Agency, as they set off on a journey towards lift-off.
The morning began with a Tim Peake themed assembly, in which the UK Space Agency’s Dr Hannah Garrett and Emily Gravestock, dressed in full astronaut suit, shared various pictures, videos, facts and information on Tim Peake’s historic mission to the International Space Station, and his subsequent journey home.
Following the assembly, the pupils were split into five separate groups, and began to work their way through a carousel of five space-themed workshops, all of which prepared the pupils for rocket launch.
Led by the UK Space Agency’s Emily Gravestock, pupils were taught about some of the key resources that astronauts used on the International Space Station. Although they were shown a number of space specific items, such as high spec food packs, the pupils were surprised to find that a number of day-to-day objects have a key role to play in space also. The pupils also learnt a little more about what life in space was like for Tim Peake, and other astronauts, including the high importance of exercise to prevent muscle wastage, how they had to adapt to eating a smaller amount of food, and the wonder of experiencing a new sunrise and sunset every 90 minutes.
Dr Hannah Garrett took pupils through the important process of keeping hydrated in Space, and how astronauts have to regularly check their hydration levels. This was achieved through a fun hands-on practical activity involving water, apple juice and Marmite, in which pupils had to mix a series of the three ingredients in a bid to make their mock urine more or less hydrated. Each group were given hydration colour charts to compare hydration levels, and could visibly see the impact that adding water to our bodies, and the monitoring of our urine, has on keeping our hydration at a safe level, whether in space or back here on Earth.
In this workshop, pupils learnt that rocky planets, such as Earth and Mars, and the moons of our Solar System, often have many craters, caused through the impact from meteorites. Led by Astronaut Bloodworth, pupils then investigated what happens to land masses when hit by a meteorite. This was achieved through setting up a contrast of trays of sand, and flour topped with cocoa powder, to represent different rocky land masses, and dropping spheres of different densities from varying heights to measure the size of the crater impact.
Led by Astronauts Sinclair & Lewis, this workshop taught, thrilled and frustrated the pupils in equal measure. The purpose of the task was to create a cube using KNEX. However, what would usually be a relatively straightforward task was made far more difficult by each pupil having to wear a pair of oversized gloves, and complete the challenge against the clock. The task was designed to replicate the assembling or maintaining of objects in space, where astronauts must have good dexterity and hand-eye coordination, especially due to the size and shape of astronaut gloves.
In the final preparations before launch, the pupils were put through their paces at the astronaut training camp, led by Astronauts Wainwright & Boswell. Pupils learnt of the physical demands on the body when going into space and, in training for lift-off, the pupils took part in a series of physical challenges including a balancing and catching activity, a gravity related jumping and rolling drill, and a series of physical exercises that left our astronauts in waiting gasping for their oxygen packs.
The day ended with all pupils assembling on the school field to watch the Griffin Voyager Rocket, complete with all personally signed names from all 115 pupils in years 3, 4, 5 & 6. Lift-off was controlled by Hannah, Emily and one very lucky Wycliffe pupil, Ethan Fey, who pressed the ignition switch to launch the rocket to a height of approximately 300 feet, which was met with amazement, gazing eyes, and no shortage of ‘ooohs and aaahs’ from the pupils.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and one which not only taught the pupils a great deal, but also inspired them to explore space and other elements of STEM further.
Many thanks to the UK Space Agency, and especially Dr Hannah Garrett and Emily Gravestock, for giving their time in creating such an exciting opportunity for the schoo