Reaching for the stars
Published: 11 June 2021
Matt Crook, co-ordinator for the Halton Partnership, wanted to run a partnership-wide competition to engage primary pupils across the schools in the excitement of science. With events and other activities postponed because of COVID restrictions, Matt launched a space competition – a topic that he knew would inspire the young learners – and asked pupils to get creative!
“Pupils could submit a project in any form on the topic of space,” says Matt. “At Lunt’s Heath nearly a quarter of our pupils took part in the competition, and I know that other schools across the partnership also had a great level of participation. We had entries ranging from posters, to models, to a six-foot spaceship, presentations, animations and even clothing!”
At Lunt’s Heath, all the children who entered received a book: How to be an astronaut; ten winners won a space torch. Across the partnership, winning entries received books and the overall winners from each school won a boarding pass for their name to go into space! This is an official NASA programme where you can submit a name to go up on the next mission to Mars. (You can find out more about the scheme by visiting the NASA website)
“The winners were so happy,” continues Matt. “One told me, I just can’t believe I’ve won, I’m so excited to send my name to Mars and hopefully one day I’ll go there as well!”
“I cannot put into words how amazed I have been by the work and dedication to the competition,” enthuses Matt. “The hours that were put in to each and every entry left me lost for words. When speaking to the children, it was wonderful to hear about the work they had done with family members (siblings, parents, grandparents) – time spent working on a shared love cannot be bought.”
“Throughout the competition, I became increasingly stunned as each day more and more entries came in! On the last day I had a line of children down the corridor waiting to show me their work,” concludes Matt.
To celebrate this incredible work, Matt has made a permanent display in the school’s science corridor and created a scrap book to share more of the entries. He has also made a picture book of each child holding up their work.
Matt enlisted the help of The Ogden Trust to judge the entries and Ogden regional representative Melissa Lord joined programme manager Paul Sapple to select the winners.
“It was brilliant!” enthuses Melissa. “I wanted to bottle all of those ideas! It was great to see just how much primary children are doing, and to hear about some of the entries which the children had submitted. How scary for an 8 year old to stand in front of two strangers and to speak to them about quite technical stuff!
“What amazed Paul and me was just how much creativity there was in the entries, definitely putting the A into STEAM, and from many there was a very high level of scientific literacy too,” continues Melissa. “Parents had reported how absorbed their children had been in the project, spending quiet time at the weekend to make something that was just out of the ordinary and about a field that captured their imagination. A journey to space from their kitchen or bedroom.”
“I was delighted to be invited to Lunt’s Heath to see the entries for the space competition,” adds Paul. “A real strength of the competition was that it allowed children complete freedom to be creative in expressing science, and what it means to them. It has been a great opportunity for families to get involved with the science that children are learning about.
“The attention to detail in the entries was superb; you could see that real care and passion has been invested by all of the participants,” continues Paul. “I had the opportunity to speak with just a few children about their work; what struck me was how brightly their passion for science shone through, and their appreciation for the role of science, and scientists, in our society. It illustrated how the partnership – through Matt and his colleagues – is helping to embed a strong sense of science identity,” concludes Paul.