Skip to content
Show Menu

Reaching for the stars

Pupils from the Ogden Stone Partnership get creative, celebrating the imminent Webb Telescope launch by creating their own models.

Published: 20 December 2021

At the start of the Autumn term, Scott Walker, Ogden Regional Representative for the North Midlands, set his school partnerships a STEM challenge. Walton Priory Middle School (Hub School for the Stone Partnership), confronted this challenge head on and rapidly turned it into a fascinating inter-school competition, engaging the majority of Years 5 and 6!

So, what was this challenge? Well, it was very simple, to create a model of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). There were no further instructions; no limits on what the model should be made from or how big it should be. The competition was designed to allow the creativity of the pupils to be showcased, which resulted in entries made from aluminum foil, carboard, recycled coffee capsules, steel plate, wood, clay and many more!

The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) is an orbiting infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity. The longer wavelengths enable Webb to look much closer to the beginning of time and to hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies, as well as to look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today.

Models of the James Webb telescope created by pupils for a competition

Competition entries.

“Initially I was unsure how many children might be interested in taking part,” explains Scott. “However, with the offer of a prize for the ‘best’ model, we enticed more than 40 entries from across upper KS2. I was grateful to the partnership co-ordinator, James Croxton-Cayzer, for informing me of how many entries had been submitted, as I was able to get some additional prizes ahead of judging day!

“And I am glad I did,” continues Scott. “All the models were quite brilliant in their own way. Some were incredibly realistic and could well have been scale models of the real thing! Others utilised recycled materials in innovative ways whilst one or two wouldn’t have been out of place in a modern art gallery! I would like to thank every pupil who took the time to research, design and construct their model. These are valuable skills that scientists and engineers require, and these children all clearly have them in abundance!”

Scott conducted the ‘judging’ on the final day of the school term. There were no official judging criteria, which made the job a challenging one. However, after careful deliberation, three top prizes were awarded, which constituted a BBC micro:bit with Kitronik Inventor’s Kit as well as three ‘highly recommended’ prizes, of Science Across the City ‘PotterBot’ kits. Every pupil who submitted a model also received a certificate from the school to acknowledge the time, effort and skill that had been poured into them.

“A striking feature of all the models, and of the real thing, is the large primary mirror array,” explains Scott. “On the official JWST, it will be made up of 18 hexagonal mirror segments, spanning 6m in diameter. This will give Webb a significantly larger collecting area than the mirror on Hubble, which measures 2.4m in diameter.

“The competition and subsequent collection of models [I wonder what the collective noun should be for a collection of Webbs?] has not only raised the profile of science in the school over recent months, but also instigated discussions around the importance of scientific research, what constitutes a scientific instrument and the variety of careers one can pursue with an interest in STEM.”

Webb is now primed for a Christmas Eve departure. How exciting will it be to wake up on Christmas day to see/hear that Webb has successful launched aboard its Ariane 5 rocket and us heading on its one-month journey to its orbit at the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. If all goes as planned, we should begin receiving images back from the telescope around six months after launch!

Models of the James Webb telescope created by pupils for a competitionCompetition entries

Interested in forming your own Ogden partnership?

A local cluster partnership can apply for up to £2,500 per academic year for the first three years and up to £1,000 in the fourth year for partnership activities to enhance the teaching and learning of physics. A further grant of up to £250 is available as partnerships move into their legacy phase. In the first year, partnership co-ordinators are awarded a time buy-out giving them half a day a week to build relationships across the cluster and establish the partnership.

An established collaboration partnership (ie a MAT) can apply for up to £2,000 per academic year for the first three years and £1,000 in the fourth year for activities to enhance the teaching and learning of physics. The partnership lead is eligible for up to three years of time buy-out to support the partnership

Teachers at all partnership schools can access CPD from Early Years Foundation Stage through to Key Stage 3. Partnerships work across primary and secondary schools to build links for transition and progression and are part of a supportive wider network of Ogden partnerships, advisers and experts.

Apply now

Partnerships normally comprise four or more schools and can be a mix of maintained schools, academies, free schools and independent schools, across the primary and secondary sector. We welcome applications from any schools in England but are especially keen to work with new partnerships in rural and coastal areas, as well as schools based in areas of social deprivation.

Find out more about our partnership programme and submit your expression of interest now to form a new partnership starting in September 2022.


Back to latest news