Soaring pupil imaginations into space

Kulvinder Johal

Kulvinder Johal is a primary school teacher with a passion for teaching and investing in pupils. She has over 20 years experience in an inner London school where over 90% of the pupils are EAL, and has been head of year for over ten years, across years 3-6. She have been a science coordinator for around 7 years, was last year awarded the Primary Science Teacher of the Year award by the PSTT. Kulvinder has gone through the PQSM process, and has also gained full International School Status for the school in her other role as International Coordinator.

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Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of... well pupils from my school, I hope! Our pupils and perhaps ‘our own personal children’, as I call my sons, could possibly be travelling up to space in their latter years. It’s something that is becoming agility, core strength, stamina and dexterity. The mission activities are planned weekly at school and work well with year 5 pupils, as it is part of their science curriculum and the PE element forms part of their requirements for the term.

"Our pupils engage so well in the programme that I am just so overwhelmingly proud of them, our school and the whole experience."

Through this, there has been an increased interest in space and all things related to this, including meeting experts and even Major Tim Peake, the first ESA astronaut from Britain! Give it another few months and I expect the whole country will know Tim Peake. He is due to go up to the I.S.S. in November 2015. I believe he’s an inspiration to us all, and he feeds the pupils’ aspirations, as well as the feeling and belief that they can one day fly up into space to a planet and moon walk. Some of the pupils have even already experienced weightlessness at the European Space centre facilities in Belgium, and because of all the inspiration around them, they are ready and keen to try it all again.

What Mission X has done is open up a whole new area for the pupils. It’s so interesting for us as teachers. It has caught pupils’ imaginations, fired up their brains and their bones, and given rise to opportunities and avenues they may not have otherwise considered.

When I met Tim Peake, I was awestruck - starstruck even, which shows how much of an impact Mission X has had on me personally. But more importantly, our pupils engage so well in the programme that I am just so overwhelmingly proud of them, our school and the whole experience. On a space trip to the Farnborough Air Show, one pupil was a dab hand on the glider simulator, another on the helicopter simulator. The pupils generally were full of vigour, interest and keen to touch, build, explore and absorb as much as we could. We had already extended the school day by three hours that day, but we could well have spent another three hours on top of that.

I write this as the second year of participation in the Mission X programme has ended, with us being awarded a Space Education Quality Mark to recognise our hard work and efforts in this area. I am also thrilled that our pupils love space and they love science. That is what us as teachers strive for. As Captain Kirk said, we strive ‘“to seek out new life”, and we certainly have done that in our classroom. Who knows, some of our pupils may end up in space one day thanks to this!

Have you explored the cosmos via your classroom? Let us know in the comments.

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