In Tenerife this summer around 120 students from the Ernesto Castro Fariña school, which specialises in education for students with hearing impairments, participated in the NRT activity “The Earth, a jewel in an explosive Universe”. The activity was designed to give the students a better understanding of the importance of our planet in an exciting and variable Universe, along with introducing them to the design of the telescope mirror, which will be made up of 18 individual hexagonal segments, acting as a single mirror surface.
The hexagons created as part of this activity will be included in a virtual gallery later this year, with artistic pieces themed on the design and science case of the NRT.
In order to inspire the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students to build and decorate the hexagons, the astrophysicists Irene Puerto (NRT and PETeR science communicator) and Jonatan Martínez (NRT Project Manager) delivered a talk, adapted to students 8 to 12 years, which was divided into three parts:
- the excellence of the sky and astronomical observatories in the Canary Islands, where NRT will be located;
- habitability conditions of Earth and other planets (with a special focus in taking care of our atmosphere, one of the 17 sustainable development goals of the UN);
- the NRT project, the largest robotic telescope in the world, and the astronomical research it is expected to cover.
At the end of the talk the students participated in an open question and debate session with the astrophysicists and then created their hexagons for the NRT virtual gallery.
During the following three of weeks, the students, in groups of four, built the hexagons with cardboard, tools, pencils and string. They then decorated the hexagons inspired by topics related to the Universe and our planet as a precious jewel we must look after.
When the students had completed their work, the astrophysicists from the NRT project went back to the school for a poster session in which each group of students showed their artwork and shared what it is that inspired them and what they wanted to convey.
The NRT team members were moved by some of the students' explanations: “everything is possible if you believe in what you are doing” or “death is no longer sad when you know you will be part of the stars”.
The teachers of the school highly valued the project, and highlighted several aspects of it:
· The variety of school topics involved: astronomy, maths, technology and arts (directly) and linguistics and others (indirectly);
· The fact that they had to work in groups, having to discuss and work together, making decisions along the way;
· The communication skills: improving their ability to express themselves and improvise in front of an audience (with students from other classes);
· The questions and debate session after the main talk as well as comments after each hexagon was presented, encouraging the active participation of students as part of the learning process.
The NRT team are looking forward to returning to the school later this month and taking the project to more schools across the UK and Spain. It was great to work with the primary students!