Picturing Science

It was all about lenses and light and discovering macro and micro worlds. Inspired by the recent Semi-Conductor exhibition at the City Art Gallery, another school programme unfolded this April at Space Place, Carter Observatory, where young curious minds got to work. From satellites and stars to microbes and minerals, young people were challenging their knowledge and observational skills, thanks to imagery captured by telescopes and microscopes.

The day started with a planetarium show ‘We are Astronomers’, followed by a short tour of the telescopes housed at Space Place. The Thomas Cooke Telescope is a treasure treat, a sound piece of engineering built in 1867 in England and now on proud display at Space Place. It’s a prime example of a refractor telescope, using lenses to focus on distant objects in the sky.

After an exploration of the multimedia gallery space, the children were next challenged to a small exhibit of macro and micro visuals. What did these images represent – and how were they captured? A chance to work with different microscopes and telescopes further put to the test how lenses capture light, focus and magnify the images we see. Throw in some right rays with an assortment of convex and concave lenses, and the students were soon to discover the magic of light and the images they could create.

The next challenge was to create a sun-catcher – shining light on a macro or micro world as viewed-down a telescope or microscope. A number of paint techniques were introduced to recreate images of planets, stars, galaxies, minerals, and cells. The list goes on … and so did the creative ideas as the paint was mixed and swirled onto the sun-catchers.

To finish off the programme, the contenders were challenged to a gallery treasure hunt for tardigrades, otherwise known as the water bear. This species has made quite a name for his survival abilities in extreme environments, including surviving in space for over a week. If the treasure hunt activity wasn’t enough, there was the added challenge for the children to make their own tardigrade as another arts and crafts activity. I was dearly reminded as to how much enjoyment young people experience from being curious and creative. Lenses and light had explored macro and micro worlds and the art of science ensured the programme a success.

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