Would-be cosmonauts enjoyed an out-of-this-world experience when they got to spend time with a real-life spaceman and hear an insider’s account of space travel. Former NASA astronaut Charles ‘Sam’ Gemar visited St Paul’s Catholic Primary School in Alnwick as part of a three-day space-themed Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) programme, which was organised by the school’s Science Lead, Donna Newton, and provided by Peter Longstaff of Starlight Education – a parent at the school whose company delivers STEM workshops across the world.

The children took part in an amazing sequence of activities,” said Rachel McInnes, teacher at St Paul’s, which is part of the Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust. “Designing robot arms, creating galaxies in a jar, making junk robots, moon shelters, space helmets, coding design projects, eating space food, and Q and A astronaut sessions, were just a few of the interstellar experiences on offer.

Questions put to Mr Gemar by the school’s 222 pupils included what position he was in during take off.

Sam asked a child to volunteer sitting on a chair,” explained Eileen Lomax, Head Teacher at the school. “He then slowly tilted the chair backwards until it was nearly 90 degrees. He informed them that this was the position they had to sit in for one hour before take off. He then shook the chair to show the children how it felt as the engines started.

Another child asked the astronaut about his ‘best moment in space’.

Sam shared that this was being able to see his home town as he descended to land on one trip that was in daylight,” continued Mrs Lomax.

During the course of the programme, the St Paul’s pupils were joined by 30 peers from fellow BBCET member St Stephen’s in Longbenton, with the school’s Year 6 class visiting Alnwick to take part in a day-long design project, which involved coding and practical applications of science in space technology.

The wider community also had the opportunity to meet Mr Gemar when they were invited by the PTA to ‘Dine with a NASA Astronaut’ in St Paul’s school hall on one of the afternoons.

Great fun was had by all, but the lasting message of the day was ‘Huge dreams and commitment’,” added Mrs McInnes. “Sam inspired everyone to aspire to outsized, remarkable ambitions, but also instilled the work ethic and dedication to the required work to achieve those dreams.

He ended with the question, ‘Which one of you is going to be the first one to walk on Mars?’ and all the hands went up in answer.

Article created on behalf of Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust by Barking Dog Media. For more information email: david@barkingdogmedia.co.uk or call 07754 271086.

All images re-produced with the kind permission of Kate Buckingham.