Our Place in Space

March 18, 2021 at 4:14 PM

The Universe: ‘Small things go around big things.'

As part of their Social Science enquiry on the solar system and galaxies, our boys in Year 4 have been contemplating the universe and their place within it. They began by considering their place within a family, researching their family trees and using mapping and Google Earth virtual trips to discover where their families originated. They discussed the idea of a Saint Kentigern family, both past and present, and moved on to consider their place in the universe.

Earth, our home planet, is the only known planet to support life for millions of people, as well as millions of species of animal and plant life. Under a thin layer of atmosphere, that separates us from the void of space beyond, everything we need to survive is provided – air, habitable land, food sources, water, warmth and fellow human beings – and animals - for company.

The boys studied the solar system, focussing on planets, stars, moons, day and night and the seasons. In groups of three, they became ‘experts’ in one of the eight planets, ready to share their learning with the rest of the class.

To back up their enquiry, the boys paid a visit to the Star Dome at Auckland Observatory in Cornwall Park, firstly spending time with Star Dome’s educator in the Observatory classroom. It soon became apparent that that this was an area of learning that had engaged the boys! The educator was most impressed as they reeled off the names of the planets in order of their distance from the sun, and articulated the difference between the ‘rocky midgets’ (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars), ‘gassy giants (Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus) and the ‘dwarf planet,’ Pluto.

The Observatory has some fantastic displays related to space travel and with an Ipad supplied to each small group, the boys toured the exhibits to answer a number of questions within an allocated time frame.

The session finished in the immersive 360-degree Planetarium, reclined back on seats to view a presentation of a fictional time in the future, when those on earth had adopted a ‘U.I.U.A.M.O’ attitude to earth. That sadly stands for ‘Use it up and move on.’ With earth on the verge of environmental collapse, space pilots set off to find a new planet to colonise - discovering that nowhere is as hospitable as planet Earth and more needs to be done to protect the delicate ecosystem of our home.

The moon, the sun, planets and stars in the distant universe have long excited the imagination and there are few of ‘that certain age’ who will ever forget the grainy black and white sight of man’s first landing on the moon. Mars is in our sights with the landing of Mars rover, Perseverance earlier this year. It is said that the first person who will set foot on Mars is alive today - and who knows, maybe one of our Year 4 boys has had his curiosity piqued today to follow Old Collegian, Mana Vautier to Nasa to pursue the dream of space exploration!

Our sincere thanks to the parents who joined the visit to help supervise the children. Your time was greatly appreciated.

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