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Children boldly explore space, infinity and beyond

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Published on 23 November 2023

Photo by Together for the Children
Photo by Together for the Children

Primary school children in Sunderland will be delving into space thanks to a new partnership with the Aldrin Family Foundation.

The collaboration with the University of Sunderland, Together for Children, the children's services partner of Sunderland City Council and The Reece Foundation has led to 20 Giant Moon Maps being distributed to primary schools across the city.

The large floor size maps are being used alongside interactive lesson plans developed by the University's Widening Access and Participation team.  The lessons are delivered mainly to year five students across Sunderland and offer a unique and interactive way to teach children about space and for them to hone critical skills in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM).

The Giant Moon Maps have been developed by the Aldrin Family Foundation (AFF) and the project is led by Dr Andrew Aldrin, the son of Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon.

The University is the first in the UK to partner with the Aldrin Family Foundation and Together for Children the first local authority partner to introduce maps in the country.

The Giant Moon Maps will be used in Primary schools across Sunderland including Grange Park Primary School, Southwick Community Primary School, Albany Village Primary School and Easington Lane Primary School.

Speaking about the partnership, Wendy Price OBE, Head of Widening Access and Participation at the University of Sunderland, said: "This pioneering initiative, the first of its kind in the UK, aligns with our institutional vision to provide inspirational and transformative educational experiences for all. This unique collaboration means that pupils across our city, and beyond, will benefit from using the Giant Moon Maps in their schools. Not only do these interactive resources bring the excitement of space exploration to life in the classroom, but they can also be used across the curriculum in areas such as numeracy and literacy.

"It was wonderful to be part of the lesson at Grange Park Primary School and to see pupils develop their knowledge, confidence and interest in space education. Pupils were eager to learn more about courses available to study at university, and the wide range of space related careers available to them."

Dr Andy Aldrin, President of the Aldrin Family Foundation, said: "The Aldrin Family Foundation is dedicated to inspiring and empowering students through space exploration. Our Giant Moon Map programme serves as a gateway of wonder and learning for students to develop a deep connection to space and science. We're proud to create the first space education hub in the UK with the University of Sunderland, Sunderland City Council, and Together for Children, and we're confident that these maps will help inspire future astronauts and scientists. The Aldrin Family Foundation is excited about this partnership and looks forward to enhancing STEM education opportunities for students and educators in north-east England."

Sunderland City Council's Cabinet Member for Young People, Learning and Skills, Councillor Linda Williams said: "Being the first local authority to bring the Aldrin Family Foundation Giant Moon Map programme to the UK is an honour for Sunderland. It's great to see schools being able to use the interactive maps to open up children to the multitude of possibilities that space and space exploration brings and give them greater understanding of the range of relevant subjects through practical, engaging and fun lessons."

Simon Marshall, Director of Education for Together for Children, said: "The Giant Moon Map lesson plans being taught in Sunderland have been developed by the University and cover everything from the history of space exploration to the geology of the moon, life for astronauts and the wide range of jobs associated with space including roles done right here in Sunderland, such as work in engineering, technology and life sciences.

"Not only do the sessions support the curriculum on space but the activities bring out so many other practical skills in maths, science, technology and engineering as well as creative topics such as art.  The maps come with additional material such as space explorer robots and 3D printed models of the moon. They are proving to be a brilliant way to teach children and we've had great feedback from children and teachers who have taken part in lessons so far."

Anne Reece, Chair of The Reece Foundation, added: "This pioneering initiative is a fantastic example of why we exist and we are delighted to be able to support the students in their exploration of space. We support the long term, sustainable prosperity of the north-east through the promotion of engineering and manufacturing, with a focus on improving STEM education, and we hope that these interactive lessons along with the Giant Moon Maps will make a difference to the north-east region and have a positive impact on people's lives."

To learn more about the Aldrin Family Foundation STEAM Education resources, visit the website here.