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Reach for the stars - and your kite

To celebrate the wonders of the night sky, and the work of the Reach for the Stars Afghanistan project, which brings an understanding of astronomy to the children of Afghanistan.

by Gordon Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 3/4

Aims

To celebrate the wonders of the night sky, and the work of the Reach for the Stars – Afghanistan project, which brings an understanding of astronomy to the children of Afghanistan.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1.  Read out the following list of words and then ask the students if they know what you are talking about!

    Acamar
    Algol
    Beid
    Keid
    Navi

    Say that for once you do know what you’re talking about because these are all the names of stars.

    –  The name Acamar comes from an Arabic word meaning ‘river’s end’.
    –  Algol is from an old Chinese word meaning ‘head of the ogre’.
    –  Navi is formed from the middle name of American astronaut Gus Grissom, who died in a fire during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission to land on the moon. His middle name was Ivan, so Navi is Ivan backwards.

    Many stars just have numbers: it is estimated that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on the Earth.
  2. Many star names indicate that the stars form parts of pictures that ancient people made to connect groups of stars (or constellations) that they saw in the night sky. We still use some of these pictures today as a way of remembering star positions.

    (You might like to stress the difference between astronomy (the science of studying the universe) and astrology (an unscientific idea about the stars and planets influencing human lives).)
  3. (Produce your kite or show an image of a kite flying.) How on earth can kites and stars be connected?

    The answer is found in the Reach for the Stars – Afghanistan project. This project is all about getting children in the strife-torn country of Afghanistan interested in astronomy.

    Members of the Reach for the Stars team teach about the night sky in schools in Afghanistan and produce educational resources and astronomy kits which they send free of charge to schools, refugee camps and orphanages. The kits include pencils, pens and papers, which many children don’t have, even in schools. Everything is written in Pashto – the children’s language.

    The Reach for the Stars team believes that the wonders of the night sky belong to everyone.

    Wherever we are in the world we all see the same sky, even if we see different parts of it. That’s why the names of the stars come from all over the planet. Many of the star names, such as Acamar and Beid, are Arabic in origin, evidence of ancient Islam’s exploration of the night sky and the wonders of the universe.
  4. And what about those kites? People in Afghanistan love flying kites and so do children in Hawaii. So, to help celebrate the idea that the beauty of the sky belongs to the whole world, the Reach for the Stars team got children on the Big Island of Hawaii to make kites to send to children in Afghanistan.

    In this way, kites and stars are linked as children from two very different backgrounds celebrate science, wonder and the joy of kite flying!

Time for reflection

The night sky belongs to the whole world.

Wherever we are and whoever we are, the night sky inspires us to learn more through science and art – or just to stop and look up in wonder.

Reach for the Stars wants to inspire children all over the world, starting in Afghanistan.

How will you respond?

Get involved with the project . . . become a fund raiser . . . start by finding a clear night to look up and be inspired?

Music

If you have any Afghan students, ask them to provide the music for this assembly. Otherwise, play some early electronic music, such as ‘Oxygene’ by Jean-Michel Jarre (widely available to download).

Publication date: October 2012   (Vol.14 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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