Teaching Primary Children About Space

Whilst covering a CPD course on primary science last year, a teacher attending believed that the topic of Space was more likely to involve information gathering and teacher imparting knowledge, rather than hands on practical science. Having taught this subject quite a bit in my career, this is not a view that I hold and this section of my blog will introduce a variety of practical ideas that can be used in the classroom. Initially I would like to look at the role of technology and how it can help children and teachers to enjoy and develop their learning of this subject. There are many sites on the Internet that teachers can use but the one site that I have regularly used and promoted as an ICT coordinator is the Bradford Robotic Telescope www.schools.telescope.org which is part of STEM at Bradford University.

It is worth noting that when I first used this resource it was free. Unfortunately there is now a charge but not an exceptionally expensive one.  

  • £70 for primary schools;
  • £195 for secondary schools;
  • £95 for small groups (e.g. GCSE astro, less than 60 accounts).
  • On top of that if schools require in-class workshops they charge £160

I first came across the telescope early on in my career. What I like about this resource is that everything you need for teaching this subject is there in one place. The children have their own account and when they log in they can work their way through a variety of topics. Each topic has a selection of simulations, photos and text to read, followed by comprehension questions and quizes.



I quite like the section teaching about telescopes which starts with their invention, how they work, the different types of telescopes and finishing off with information about Gamma Ray telescopes.

Refracting Telescope


Gamma Ray Telescopes


There is an image gallery where you can view recently added images or you can search for a specific picture.  However, the most exciting element of this site is that the children can arrange to have their own images of space taken by the telescope.

According to information on the site, the telescope works on a request basis which means that you do not get individual remote control but have to generate a request describing what you want to observe.  This request is sent to the telescope which then decides how and when to take the image. Request based observing means you do not need to know when an object rises or sets in the night sky which removes the need for you to base your lessons around this. It also removes the problems of looking at an image as a cloud moves in front of it; the telescope works out the best time to take an image over the period of a night.

On the left hand menu you will clearly see the section for using the telescope and when you go to that area you can choose from a variety of subjects such as the moon, constellations or planets.


Image menu

There is plenty of support on the site on how to edit your image when it is collected. Children will need access to an email account either their own or a class account. I used gaggle net https://www.gaggle.net/ which is an easy to use and safe email system developed for schools.

You have to witness the excitement in the class when the children have received an email notifying them that their image is ready to view to fully appreciate what a great resource this is.  The children can save their image to their own spacebook within the site but the images can be downloaded onto your system easily. I would in fact then get the children to use these images in other multimedia programmes.

Below are a few images I collected recently

My first single image

My first single image

I then set up the telescope to take multi-images which will do this over a week, in fact you can do this over four weeks and get to see each phase of the moon

Ist October 2013

Ist October 2013


2nd October 2013

2nd October 2013


8th October 2013

8th October 2013

I have not altered these images but you can enhance them should you need to. I just wanted to get a few samples of my own and of course I am still awaiting some more images, not just from the moon but a couple of planets. I will put these up at a later date.

There are of course other telescopes one is the national schools observatory http://www.schoolsobservatory.org.uk  and the other www.faulkes-telescope.com I hope this small introduction to these telescopes will encourage you to give these resources a try and of course if you have used them, feel free to add your own thoughts to the blog



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