Armagh Planetarium and Astro Park Wednesday 5th April Session 12

For today’s session the children are going on a field trip to better understand the direction our Virtually There project has taken us. We began over 6 months ago looking at balance and control, and this led on to thinking about weight and gravity, and eventually space exploration, the Solar System and the night sky.

The day dawned dry and bright thankfully as the second part of our trip was to be outdoors. The children were full of excitement as they boarded the bus at half past 8. We were the first school group of the day to be booked in to the Planetarium so we needed to get on the road early. We had arranged to meet Sharon at the Planetarium at 9.15.

On arrival we were greeted by Heather who took us to a large theatre where we were given our schedule for the morning.

We began our visit with a show in the specially designed auditorium with a dome roof. It was an interactive show as Heather introduced the children to all the planets in the Solar System individually with lots of questions and answers along the way. It was very informative as well as a lot of fun. The children listened and participated so well that they won a ride on the planetarium’s simulator roller-coaster Armageddon which took them into Space on a very memorable journey around the planets. It was awesome. Thank goodness no-one had travel sickness!


We then left the domed room with Heather and she took us to a workshop where the children were put into pairs and made their own rocket ships using 2 litre plastic bottles, card, a weight, sticky tape and crayons to decorate. The children worked as quickly as they could as they only had fifteen minutes before they would need to take their rockets outside to launch them up the hill behind the workshop.


Each pair launched their own rocket from a large generator which pumped air into the bottle. The bottles were half filled with water first, which was the rocket fuel. When all the rockets had been launched we set off up the hill to look for our rockets and find out whose had travelled the furthest.  It was a close contest between Caolan’s rocket, and Sarah and Samantha’s rocket, but theirs flew right up to the top of the hill so it was declared the winner.


After an extremely busy morning we just had a half hour left to explore the Exhibition area. The children dressed up as astronauts complete with space helmets and had opportunities to participate in a wide range of interactive activities before we move on to the Planetarium shop where some children bought some Alien eggs!


By this stage the children were hungry so we made our way back to the bus to retrieve our lunches then we walked the short distance to the Astro Park which is a scaled model of the Universe where we sat outside and ate our lunches. We had a chance to explore the Astro Park and after tidying away the lunches we set off to climb the Hill of Infinity.


Sharon waited with the children at the top whilst I ran back down to the bottom to video the race as they travelled at great speed back down the Hill. It was a very exciting race and the children said they felt like they were hurtling through space! Erin Crummie was the winner of what was a very tough competition. However the fun was in the participation. Exhaustedly we made our way back to the bus to drive to the play park at the Palace Demense.


Sharon had come equipped with art materials and clipboards and the children were able to record some of their thoughts and ideas from their trip on paper as the children sat around the picnic tables and drew some wonderful pictures.


There was a zipline, a spider climbing frame as well of lots of other fun equipment in the park to challenge and amuse the children and we were very fortunate with the weather as the day stayed lovely and sunny and the children had an energetic afternoon. A big thank you to Daithi’s mum who spent the afternoon pushing people on the zipline.


Daithi would like one to travel from his house into school in the morning, and then there wouldn’t be cars parking dangerously outside the school gates!

The field trip was a great success and getting the opportunity to get together with Sharon to discuss the remainder of the project was very helpful also. The children’s curiosity about space has grown and we are planning some alien activities back in the classroom.

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