Physics Outreach ‘Zooms’ into Primary Schools

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Final solar system ticket tape model
Final solar system ticket tape model

Physics Outreach delighted Year 5 of Woodlands Primary School before the Easter break with a virtual visit into their classroom to explore the solar system.

Virtual Assembly on Space Missions

Prior to the virtual visit the whole year group were provided with a pre-recorded assembly video discussing all of the most exciting space missions past, present and future. The children really enjoyed the fact that they weren’t just shown lots of dates and photos of astronauts but we also looked at the actual trajectories of specific missions like Pioneer, Voyager I & II and more recent New Horizons and Mars Rover missions.

In the Class-zoom

They completed activities helping them to gain insight and appreciate realistic scales of distances between the planets compared to the more common, often misleading, solar system maps and models that depict the planets spread out quite evenly.

There were 2 full classes and in both each child had a section of shop till receipt tape and followed step by step instructions delivered live via Zoom by Physics Outreach Co-ordinator, Sarah Annand and School of Physical Sciences Outreach Manager, Chris Marchant.

Once the children had placed all of the planets in their relative positions they were given a tour of the planets themselves in a Virtual Planetarium tour in their own classrooms. This was achieved by sharing a screen of the Stellarium software, the same our actual planetarium/projector/dome computer uses and was one of the most popular physics outreach workshops pre-covid.

Each Planet was visited in turn and the main features discussed while the children labelled their own model as we went. It was also pointed out that we had made a more realistically scaled solar system model but only for the distances, not the sizes of the planets! They were surprised that on this scale the size of Jupiter would be a fraction of the width of a human hair.

The teachers and children are planning on making a giant model of the ticket tape activity this coming summer term and have promised to send photos. The Virtual Visitor workshops are being developed to provide outreach to schools remotely but are adaptable to 'in person' delivery when it is possible to do so. If you know any primary schools that may be interested in this workshop or even a pre-recorded video for assembly or class they should contact:

The Jupiter image with the moons.

The Jupiter image with the moons.