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  • 24 March 2009

Schools in space race to save island from disaster


Island SOS: Pupils will work on a simulated rescue mission based on actual events on the Caribbean island of Montserrat

Island SOS: Pupils will work on a simulated rescue mission based on actual events on the Caribbean island of Montserrat

Brighton and Hove secondary school pupils will use space technology to tackle hurricanes, volcanoes and the evacuation of an island as part of an exciting science event at the University of Sussex this week (w/c Monday 23 March).

The special event - Operation Montserrat - is run by the National Space Centre (NSC) in Leicester. It is a live simulation based on real data relating to an actual disaster. The University's multimedia Creativity Zone, transformed into a high-tech operations room featuring a live video link-up to 'Mission Control' at the NSC, provides the setting.

In the Creativity Zone, Year 7, 8 and 9 pupils from Hove Park School and Portslade Community College will apply skills learnt in the classroom to tackle a 'real-life' challenge - a series of looming natural disasters on a tropical island. The pupils act out the role of rescuers.

During the two-hour mission, students serve as members of various teams which will deal with an erupting volcano, an approaching hurricane, a mass-evacuation of islanders, satellite repairs, communication tasks and handling the media. Pupils will have to analyse real science data and consider human dilemmas to make life-or-death decisions

The scenario draws on an actual event - a simultaneous volcanic eruption and hurricane on the Caribbean island of Montserrat in 1996.

Operation Montserrat builds students' enthusiasm for all areas of the curriculum, from maths and science to English, geography and citizenship. It also helps to improve problem solving and critical thinking skills and teaches the importance of teamwork and communication.

The staging of the event in the University's Creativity Zone is a result of a collaboration between the University of Sussex Physics department's Gifted and Talented (G&T) programme run by Visiting Research Fellow David Daniels, the e-science Usability project in the department of Informatics and InQbate, the Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Creativity.

The e-mission is part of a regular programme of visits for students on the G&T programme to the University of Sussex Science Lab, run by David Daniels.

The collaboration brings added technological support and drama to the exercise, while the University's science bus will support the event by travelling to schools to brief pupils in the run-up to the exercise.

University of Sussex Research Fellow Hilary Smith, who helped to organise the event, says: The e-mission is a real test for the students. They have to think rapidly and communicate clearly within their teams, produce news reports and report to mission control. We're keen to see how they apply their training and what they decide to do to help the Montserrat islanders."

Notes for editors

  • Operation Montserrat takes place on Mon 23, Thurs 26, Fri 27 and Mon 30 March, 1.30pm to 3.30pm in InQbate, the CETL Creativity Zone at the University of Sussex. Groups of up to 20 school pupils from Hove Park School and Portslade Community College will take part each day. This is the first time the exercise has come to Brighton. It is devised by the Challenger Learning Centre, which is based at the National Space Centre in Leicester.

 

For more information about Operation Montserrat, see: Montserrat

 

The Challenger Learning Centre, the only one of its kind outside the USA, was established in memory of the crew of the ill-fated Challenger Space Shuttle. It provides a unique hands-on learning experience designed to foster interest in maths, science and technology. It includes an on-site simulator, comprising a Space Station, which gives students the simulated experience of working in space, and a Mission Control, modelled after NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.  See: Challenger

 

The award winning National Space Centre is the UK's largest attraction dedicated to space. See: spacecentre

 

The Creativity Zone at the University of Sussex is part of InQbate, The Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Creativity. See: InQbate

 

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune, Jacqui Bealing and Danïelle Treanor. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email press@sussex.ac.uk

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