We Share the Same Moon

Lead Research Organisation: University of Central Lancashire
Department Name: Jeremiah Horrocks Institute

Abstract

The ultimate aim of We Share the Same Moon will be to use folktales relating to the Moon from a variety of different cultures to engage a young audience with the wonder and creativity of science.

Human beings have always looked up at the sky and wondered about the stars. Since ancient times there has been a long tradition of drawing patterns in the stars, and relating these patterns to local mythology and folklore. In the modern world, science is making spectacular advances in unravelling the story of how the Universe came to be the way we see it today, but these ancient stories remain with us in the form of our modern constellations.

The ancient stories on which our modern sky is based were not purely folklore, they had a purpose not only as a form of entertainment or as moral tales, but also as a memory-aid, helping people learn the sky and so aiding in agriculture and navigation long before the invention of the compass, clocks, or modern GPS technology.

One example of practical sky lore is the Australian Aboriginal story of the emu in the sky, an extraordinarily large feature which, when visible at a certain time of the year, told people the correct time to search for emu eggs, a valuable source of many vital nutrients. The emu is a very obvious feature of the Southern sky, formed from the dust clouds in the Milky Way, and still features in the stories and artwork of modern Aboriginal Australia. We now know that these dark patches are regions of the disk of our galaxy where the stars are obscured by thick lanes of dust, but that scientific knowledge does not, and should not, make the folktale less important. Science does not exist in a cultural vacuum, and the scientific process requires a good measure of creativity and inspiration.

This project will collect some of the most interesting and imaginative Moon tales from different cultures around the world, both ancient and modern, and use them to create curriculum-linked teaching resources for primary-age children. These resources will be written with the intention of encouraging children to explore an idea in a scientific way, and also to explore other cultures and to think creatively about the world around them at the same time. Cultural sky stories will be used as the basis for the activities, each with some aspect of modern astronomy illustrated alongside and suggestions for exploring the topic in more depth, and will be designed such that teachers of any specialism will be able to make use of them in the classroom.

We will engage and enthuse young children with astronomy (and science, and the scientific process, more generally) through the use of storytelling and other creative approaches. We aim to engage and collaborate with schoolchildren, teachers and informal educators to develop, test, implement and evaluate a series of story-based curriculum-linked resources that can be used by educators of any background. The resources we produce will be tested by and (with their help) made suitable for diverse audiences, including children with English as an additional language, those who are hearing or visually impaired, and those with autism. The resources will particularly useful for groups with low science capital, those who may have little or no exposure to science in their home environment, and will be designed to be easy to use by teachers with no science background.

Planned Impact

The main deliverable of the project will be a collection of resources linked to the UK primary curriculum. These resources will be developed, tested and evaluated in collaboration with our teacher partners in the Bath Schools Science Network, as well as with informal educators at the Royal Astronomical Society and the Young Scientist Centre.

Once completed, these resources will be distributed via the internet and through our networks. Cassandra Wye has an extensive network of storytellers and schools with whom she already works. Megan has access to networks of science communicators both in the UK and overseas. While the resources produced will be tailored to the UK curriculum, they will also be useful in other countries and will be easily adaptable to other curricula. Our project partners will also play a role in the distribution of the resources through their own networks and by word of mouth.

As part of this project we will create a dedicated website (already funded through the Arts Council grant) to host the science resources, the stories, and the video, audio and other format versions of the resources. We also plan to present the results of our project and its evaluation in research articles and presentations in suitable publications and conferences such as the Association of Science Educators conference, the British Science Association conference, the National Astronomy Meeting, in Astronomy & Geophysics, and in the Communicating Astronomy with the Public journal.

Publications

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