Astronaut and British Army Air Corps officer, Tim Peake, has featured regularly in national and local newspapers over the past year and has frequently trended on Twitter, which, in the 21st century, is something of a big deal!
As the first British European Space Agency astronaut and the second astronaut to bear a British flag patch (Helen Sharman was the first to do so), Peake has become an important figure in aerospace history. However, it’s been his ability to successfully revive an interest and love of space in adults and children alike that has been truly inspirational.
Whilst in space, Peake ran several education projects aimed at engaging pupils in numeracy, science and literacy, including a live science lesson that was watched by more than 400,000 children from Earth. Instead of just sitting down reading through a textbook, Peake encouraged children to explore space and science with him, capturing their attention and enthusing their imagination, and showing them that anything is possible.
This week, Peake, an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, discussed the importance of supporting children’s ambitions and aspirations. He said, “We need to be filling young people with confidence and telling them that they shouldn’t let anyone tell them they shouldn’t be aspiring to something.” Which leads me on to the important role parents play in developing a child’s self-belief and supporting their goals.
Parents are the very first teachers in a child’s life and therefore are responsible for nurturing their abilities, talents and interests from a very young age. As a child grows, so do their dreams, ideas about the world around them and understanding of what they’re capable of, so as parents, being supportive by giving them chances to explore the world further and develop their skills- both academic and social- is crucial for developing well-rounded, focused and successful individuals.
So, with school out for summer, how can parents follow in the footsteps of Tim Peake and encourage children to explore science? Here are a few ideas to inspire you…
- Create a solar system
Find nine spherical objects in varying sizes, then use papier mâché to cover them. Leave the papier mâché to dry and then, using scissors where necessary to gently cut a line downwards, remove the spherical objects inside. This can then be tapped using masking tape. Decorate the round, papier mâché spheres, so that they represent each of the nine planets and then leave to dry. To hang the planets up, take a needle and thread and run it through the bottom and top of the planet, securing the thread at the bottom and leaving a decent amount of thread at the top, so that they can hang from the ceiling. Use the lampshade in your child’s bedroom to represent the sun and then pin the planets to the ceiling in the correct order. Creative and science-y- an activity sure to inspire!
- The ice experiment
Fill three water bottles up with water and then freeze them. On a sunny day, have your child place the three water bottles in different locations, for example: in direct sunlight, in the shade and inside the house. Then, ask them to predict what will happen to each water bottle when left for three hours. When you return to the water bottles after three hours, ask the child to note down the findings. You can then discuss what happened, explaining the concepts of solids, liquids and gases, and temperature and particles. A great science experiment that’s safe for the home!
- Get baking
There are so many scientific processes that occur when cooking or baking, plus having your child read a recipe book is encouraging them to read, therefore supporting their literacy skills. Why not bake some cookies and discuss the processes that occur? Discuss why the butter melts in the pan, what’s happening to the particles in the ingredients when mixed together, why the cakes rise (or, for some amateur bakers, don’t rise!) This is a simple task, but subtly explores different scientific topics and shows how something entirely new can be created out of different ingredients/elements.
Who knows what the future holds? One thing is for sure, however, and that is there’s going to be a greater chance of your child achieving their dreams if they’re encouraged to reach for the stars and fulfil their ambitions. So, if they want to be the next Charles Dickens, Vivienne Westwood or Tim Peake, provide them with the opportunities, activities and resources needed to explore and enhance their passion. Most importantly though, be supportive and give them the confidence to make their dream a reality!