St Pauls Senior Girls National School in Greenhill’s Dublin 12 is just a few minutes’ walk from the house where I grew up. It was fortuitous to have the opportunity to carry out my third Action Sun for a school in this area.
On June 25th 47 young girls from third class, took part in building the sun. This was a very positive group all eager to get going and get busy. Streamers of orange and red paper flew through the air in vast amounts. In a short time the photosphere began to grow in the schools courtyard.
The activity of Action Sun supports the school curriculum in its art as it uses mixed media to create the sun. The program uses paint and paper to convey activity and explosive movement on the solar disc. Action Sun also supports primary school art as it enables children to use the characteristics of the materials to make structures and features on the solar disc. Making the sun in this way is both creative and explorative. Learning a little science through the arts facilitates the use of many kinds of intelligences. The learning process in the making is as valuable as the finished suns. Textures and spatial organisation also comes into the creation of this work. The girls at St Pauls School were very good at working as a group, helping each other out. They also made good decisions during the activity which showed they were an excellent team. This is kinesthetic learning, learning by doing.
Action Sun compliments science in the primary school curriculum on several levels. A short information talk in between making the suns features informs the children about our suns role in the solar system. We talk about the scale of the sun and the Earth. We talk about the energy of the sun and its function in relation to the other planets. The mini talks make sure that the children understand that the sun is our main source of heat and light. By building the sun the children learn by hands on investigation. The children literally explore the physical features of the sun with their hands in mini scale. A quick review of the evaluation sheets shows the quality of the learning. Several children not only drew sketches of the complex sun but also put in arrows to the different features and labelled them all correctly. The action of throwing the paper was very popular, signing their names was also a highlight and for some children carrying the sun into the hall was the stand out moment of the day.
When I look at the sun in my solar telescope I see a huge amount of detail and very often in the past I have shared that view with children. However it takes a long time to show this view to a large group as the sun presents as a small disc with tiny features. It is difficult for children to comprehend the enormous scale of our nearest star. I put Action Sun together to bridge that gap and help more people achieve some understanding of this wonderful star in safety with a big fun element.
The features of the sun itself were totally new to this young group, but at the end of the programme words like photosphere, chromosphere, filaments, prominences and sunspots were all a little more familiar. We closed our eyes at the end of the build and held our faces up to the sun to feel its heat and remind ourselves that it takes eight minutes for its light to get to us here on Earth, a 93 million mile smile. Building the sun took about 90 minutes. The 7.9 X 4.9 meter tarpaulin was pre prepared at home using four litres of matte black masonry paint. During the activity we used approx 3,500 individual pre cut pieces of crepe paper ,15 litres of washable PVA glue, 6 litres of yellow paint , 1 litre of red paint, plus the energy of forty seven eight and nine year old third class girls.
My thanks to Sarah Jayne Reid for setting up Action Sun at St Pauls and to Phil Curran for all her efforts prior to, during and post the build. Thanks to Ms Keating, Ms Daly and Principal Sr Maureen for their support during the activity. NASA Sun Earth Day bookmarks, posters and other educational material were provided to the teachers. The solar feature data for this Action Sun was an observation of the disc made from my PST earlier that morning. The Solar Dynamics Observatory website was pointed out to the girls so they could continue to watch the sun safely.