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Final frontier rocks up to Cullen Primary School!

By Alan Beresford

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Reaching for the stars – a Cullen Primary pupil examines a piece of Moon rock.
Reaching for the stars – a Cullen Primary pupil examines a piece of Moon rock.

THE final frontier came into the classroom at Cullen Primary recently when the kids got their hands on rare samples of Moon rocks and meteorites.

Pupils were encouraged to reach for the stars and learn more about the universe during a week-long interactive experience of astronomy where they were given a unique opportunity to touch a piece of space rock.

These rare samples were provided free of charge by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which provides educational packs in a bid to inspire young people to get involved in science.

The pack included a 1.2 billion-year-old piece of Mars rock and a 4.3 billion-year-old nickel meteorite. It is unlikely students will ever get the chance to hold an object older than this, as Earth itself was formed 4.6 billion years ago.

The lunar samples were collected in the late 1960s and early 1970s during some of NASA’s first manned space missions to the Moon. During these missions, a staggering 382kg of material was brought back to Earth, mostly for use by scientists, but small quantities are used to develop educational packs like this one.

STFC hopes these packs will encourage students to become the next generation of astronomers.

The organisation’s Executive Chair, Professor Mark Thomson, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to offer this unique opportunity to young people.

"It’s not often they’ll be able to see close-up, and actually touch, such important fragments of science history. Samples like these are vital in teaching us more about our solar system, allowing us to confront theory with fact. We hope this experience will encourage the students to take up a career in science.”

Council leader Councillor Kathleen Robertson. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Council leader Councillor Kathleen Robertson. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

The chairwoman of Moray Council’s education, communities and leisure services committee, Councillor Kathleen Robertson, added: “This experience, provided by STFC, is a fantastic and unique way to get our pupils engaged and interested in science.

"Being able to bring real life and interactive experiences into the school environment has been proven to be incredibly beneficial.”

Meteorites are pieces of rock from space that fall to Earth. They come from a variety of places and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s collection includes samples from the main asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, from the Moon and even one from Mars.

Mars has fascinated people for thousands of years and in June 2003 the European Space Agency launched Mars Express, a mission to study the Red Planet in detail, which a number of British scientists have worked on.

Mars Express arrived at its destination at the end of 2003 and is now sending back exciting information, including evidence of methane, that might point to the existence of life – see www.esa.int/Mars for the latest information.

For further information on Moon rock samples or to book a loan, contact Jane Butt at the Science and Technology Facilities Council on 07935 014730 or jane.butt@stfc.ukri.org

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