Armagh Observatory and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) together with An Creagán and the Omagh and Cookstown District Councils are hosting a day of free BBC Stargazing LIVE and Universe Awareness (UNAWE) activities at An Creagán and the nearby Beaghmore Stone Circles. This is a unique megalithic site and the best Dark-Sky site in Northern Ireland.
1. EU-UNAWE Primary School Activities
In the morning, starting at 10.30am (arrival), a series of astronomy and science-based activities will be provided for local KS2 school children at An Creagán. These activities for primary school children (including time for them to eat a packed lunch at An Creagán) will finish at approximately 2.00pm (departure).
The children will be divided into groups to carry out a series of up to four activities including the following:
1.1. Shadow Theatre by European Universe Awareness (EU-UNAWE)
Presenters Lara Albanese and Alessandra Zanazzi from the world-famous Arcetri Observatory in Florence. Their contribution is entitled "Virginia and Galileo Galilei: a Sky Full of Discoveries".
The Italian presenters will lead the children along a learning path combining hands-on activities and science experiments, including shadow theatre and puppet performances.
The show begins by asking the children to produce loud noises, strong enough to make rice grains "dance". This introduces some basic physical principles using the medium of fun and play. Verbal and non-verbal learning styles are used to expand the pupils' learning skills and knowledge of science.
The first theatre play, written thanks to the idea and contribution of the famous puppet maker and shadow-theatre expert Mariano Dolci, is about Virginia, Galileo's daughter. In the play we imagine that she was the first to point her father's telescope at the stars. This is exactly the kind of clever, cheeky idea that a child's imagination might contrive.
We then introduce some of the questions about astronomy that Virginia might have asked, and encourage the children to make further explanatory experiments. The "play" keeps switching from shadow theatre to hands-on activities and involves different cultures from around the world.
1.2: Distance and Scale in the Solar System (EU-UNAWE)
A hands-on astronomy lesson. This brings together numeracy, group work and practical activities. Using the worksheets provided, the children will be guided by Armagh Observatory staff to build two models (all materials supplied). The first will be a scale model of the size of the planets; the second, on a different scale, a model to illustrate the relative distances of the planets from the Sun and one another. These activities reinforce concepts of distance and scale and help pupils to understand the vast distances in our own Solar System.
1.3. Life in the Bronze Age
This "early times" session will include activities relating to this special, unique Bronze Age site, including pot making, using stone-age tools and other available materials. The children will gain a far better appreciation of the people who used to live here and who built the intriguing Beaghmore Stone Circles.
1.4. The Night Sky
This child-friendly activity will include a slideshow illustrating the night sky from this special Dark-Sky site, linking in with the previous cycle of activities. Children and their teachers are shown how to observe Venus and Jupiter (planets that they just made) and other objects visible in the night sky, using handouts and explanations of easy ways to identify other objects such as the principal northern-hemisphere winter constellations.
The slideshow may be presented to everyone participating in the morning sessions.
2. Living History and Observing at Beaghmore
The second element of the free BBC Stargazing LIVE event will take place in the afternoon, from approximately 3.30pm to 5.00pm. Weather permitting, all participants will travel by bus to the Beaghmore Stone Circles to watch the Sun going down. There will then be an opportunity to observe the bright planets Venus and Jupiter, both visible in the southern sky, as well as the first stars to appear after sunset.
Those requiring transport by bus from Cookstown should reserve places in advance from Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre, Tel: 028-8676-9949. The bus will leave Cookstown Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre at 2.30pm, with pick-up at An Creagán at 3.00pm, arriving at Beaghmore for 3.30pm and returning from Beaghmore at approximately 5.30pm depending on local conditions.
If the weather's bad, we will have an alternative Living History programme at An Creagán, a slide show illustrating the night sky from this special Dark-Sky site, and the EU-UNAWE presentation "Virginia and Galileo Galilei: A Sky Full of Discoveries".
3. Public Lectures on Archaeology and Astronomy and Observing from An Creagán
The last part of this free BBC Stargazing LIVE event will take place in the evening in An Creagán, from 8.00pm to 9.30pm, followed by observing (if clear) from the grounds. The evening part of the event will involve two Public Lectures, the first by Claire Foley (NIEA), entitled "Stone Circles and the Bronze Age Perception of the Skies"; and the second by Professor Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory), entitled "Comets and Cometary Concepts in History: Identifying the Celestial Connection".
Anyone wishing to participate in either the afternoon or evening events is requested to obtain their FREE ticket(s) by telephoning or sending an e-mail to: Mrs Aileen McKee at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh; Tel: 028-3752-2928; e-mail: ambnarm.ac.uk.
Funding to provide this BBC Stargazing LIVE event is provided by European Universe Awareness (EU-UNAWE), funded through the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No. 263325; the Armagh Observatory and the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL); the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Department of the Environment (DoE); and the Cookstown and Omagh District Councils. It is a pleasure to acknowledge the support of all these organizations, as well as the BBC, for the work they have all undertaken to facilitate education and learning in STEM through this year's BBC Stargazing LIVE event at An Creagán and the Beaghmore Stone Circles.