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UAE schools start shaping next Mars explorers

Nandini Sircar/Dubai
Filed on February 17, 2021
Reuters

New courses and activities were rolled out in classes, aiming to foster a new generation of space enthusiasts, future academics, engineers and astronauts.


Inspired by the epic Hope Probe moment on February 9, several schools in the UAE have started their own ‘space mission’: To get students excited about exploring the galaxies when they grow up.

New courses and activities were rolled out in classes, aiming to foster a new generation of space enthusiasts, future academics, engineers and astronauts. There were new subjects, as well as competitions, webinars and science camps for kids.

“The reason we are focusing on astronomy and cosmology is because the UAE is in the forefront of space research...We intend to align our priorities with the nation’s initiatives. We also want our students to focus on sustainable development and drive the vision for a knowledge-based economy that the UAE is trying to promote,” said Rohan Roberts, director of innovation and future learning at GEMS Wellington Academy, Al Khail.

“We want to create a sense of awe and wonder about the cosmos in young children. Children are naturally curious about the universe and outer space. At the high school level, schools offer such astronomy programmes and we wanted to change that and help our students get a broader and scientific understanding of the universe and create a network of space enthusiasts.”

The school’s weekend course would also focus on bigger threats that humanity may face from outer space — like a comet or an asteroid impact or a gamma radiation burst — while answering deep existential questions.

“These are things that will wipe out all life on our planet. So it’s important to be aware of these existential threats. In the coming weeks we are looking at rocket propulsion systems, what is it like to live on the international space station, why do we build satellites, how to prepare to be an astronaut and why should we start colonising Mars and a deep dive into the UAE’s future in space,” Roberts said.

“Once the KHDA allows us, we intend taking out our telescopes to do star-gazing events, allowing the rest of the network to attend these events as well.”

Other schools are celebrating the success of the Mars mission with different projects related to astrophysics.

Abdullah Kutty, principal of Little Flower English School, said: “We are running a space week in school that will end this weekend. We have involved pupils right from kindergarten to Class VI depending on their age and capabilities. The idea is to inspire them towards space-related topics.”

Kindergarteners, for example, got to build their own Red Planet using modelling clay or through their fingerprints, Kutty said.

Older children worked on cool projects like making their own probe to explore Mars, after doing their research on how the UAE built Hope. “Some pretend to be a MBRSC engineer and design a prototype of the latest and greatest satellite.”

Over the past year, many other schools have incorporated space activities into their learning curriculum.

Sangita Chima, principal of Amity School Dubai, said: “Exposure and awareness are key. To spark interest among students, we conducted several STEAM and creative arts activities under the theme of space. We have received an overwhelming response from students and parents regarding the initiatives taken by the school, which led us to continue our space science activities and keep the momentum going. We are organizing a virtual real-life field trip with Amity University Dubai. Students will get a tour of the University’s Aerospace Lab and learn more about the workings of lab equipment and the University’s Satellite Ground Station,” she said.

nandini@khaleejtimes.com





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