The son of Buzz Aldrin, the second person to set foot on the moon in 1969, has taken his space programme into a Sunderland primary school for the first time – with the help of the University of Sunderland.
The Aldrin Family Foundation, led by Dr Andrew Aldrin, has teamed up with the University to inspire schoolchildren to become interested in space science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.
The Giant Mars and Moon Maps programme sees the University’s pre-16 outreach team and trainee teachers from the University’s School of Education use giant interactive floor maps to bring the boundless possibilities of space and space exploration to life for pupils in the Sunderland area and beyond.
And now, the project has made its first official school outing to Academy 360 in Sunderland.
More than 40 Year 5 pupils have taken part in a number of activities using the giant maps to learn about the challenges and opportunities presented by space.
They also got the chance to navigate a MyBot Rover robot across the surface of Mars on a special mission.
Aldrin Family Foundation Chief Innovation Officer Jim Christensen, who is also a former Director of Education at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, delivered the session.
He said: “Aldrin Family Foundation has a goal of inspiring students in science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics, and the project we’re doing with Sunderland so fits with what it is that we believe in – and now we find out it’s really what Sunderland believes in as well.
“It’s really exciting to come to a school and actually see these kinds of things in action with students.”
Jim added: “When I get to work with trainee teachers I get very excited because I know our next generation is in good hands.
“We’ve got a lot of really great people that want to be teachers and I like to have my opportunity to mould and encourage them and give them the benefit of some of the experiences I have.”
Trainee teacher Nicola McCoy, who is studying a Primary Education PGCE at the University of Sunderland, helped facilitate the lesson.
She said: “It’s been very interesting particularly listening to Jim talk to the children because he is very knowledgeable, they asked him lots of questions and they were very, very engaged in the subject matter, which is fantastic.
“Just seeing the whole team around the children and around the maps has been lovely.”
Lisa Irvin-Kaye, Year 5 teacher and Primary Lead for Science at Academy 360, added: “Space is something that engages all of the children naturally but to see it in context and to see there are real-life opportunities for them, to take their learning further, I think that is brilliant.
“A big thanks to Jim and the Aldrin Family Foundation, and the University of Sunderland, for giving us this opportunity. It’s been absolutely fantastic.”
Sunderland is the first UK university to partner with the Aldrin Family Foundation to help further its goal to educate and inspire the next generation to take on the challenges and opportunities of space.