Curriculum links

Stargazing’ and the supporting follow-on activities link to the National Curriculum in the following ways:

Curriculum areas:

Science – earth and space, forces, scientific vocabulary
English – considering different viewpoints, speaking for different purposes

Science KS2

  • Earth and Space
  • Forces
  • Scientific Investigation


  • Speaking and Listening/Spoken Language
  • Considering different viewpoints


  • Spiritual
  • Moral
  • Social
  • Cultural

If you would like more information on how this programme supports the above curriculum areas, please contact us.


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Earth orbit, axis and wobble animation
Phases of the moon animation
BBC webpage on Galileo
The Galileo Project
Planetarium at think tank in Birmingham
Foucault’s pendulum


Useful Reading

Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, translated John Willet
Methuen 1986, ISBN: 0413577805

Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel
Fourth Estate Ltd 2000, ISBN: 1857027124

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Penguin Books Ltd, ISBN: 0141183624

Make it work! Space by Andrew Haslam
Two-Can/Watts books, ISBN: 1-85434-333-5


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Performed by Simon Turner

Directed by Malcolm Jennings & Juliet Fry

Website content by Malcolm Jennings & Helen Greenwood
Revised and updated by Cheryl Stott and John Flitcroft

Original programme developed with support from Janine Baldock and staff at Birmingham Science Museum and Dr. Mike Farmer, Senior Science Lecturer, UCE, Birmingham

Thanks to: Ruth Morgan and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre


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Aim & outcomes


To excite in children an enthusiasm for scientific enquiry.


  • To practice principles of scientific exploration
  • To understand the motions of the stars and planets
  • To consider the difficulties inherent in trying to introduce new ideas and theories
  • To demonstrate that scientific exploration is an imaginative and creative act


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Programme Outline

 Part One
– In the classroom

The teacher/actor will introduce them self to the class and explain that they will be playing two characters in this drama and that the children will be university students.  Open questions are asked in relation to the group’s knowledge of science and scientists. The children are engaged in a conversation and simple demonstration of what the universe is like and how peoples understanding of this has changed through history.   The notion of scientists and Galileo having an interest in exploring, questioning and discovering the mysteries of the world is introduced.  The children are then set-up in role as students of Galileo in 1633. They have some ‘homework’ which they have been doing from observations through their telescopes which they need to take with them to their next lesson which is ‘today’! Before they arrive in the Hall they are intercepted by a stern character, the teacher/actor in-role as Cardinal Barberini who warns them not to go to study with Galileo.

– In the hall

The children are greeted in the hall by Andreas Sarti a servant of the house who has some very exciting news. Andreas tells them of the previous night’s amazing discovery of the four moons of Jupiter by Galileo. Andreas explains how they were awake all night studying and making notes which is why Galileo is not able to take their lesson today and is asleep in bed. He has asked Andreas to present the lesson on his behalf. Together they share their findings about the 28-day lunar cycle and the wandering stars or planets (the heliocentric universe) they also talk about other related concepts like: what makes night and day? How long does it take for the earth to travel around the sun? Galileo has asked them to test out an idea that relates to notions of gravity.

The children have the opportunity to participate in scientific enquiry by experimenting with a range of objects to see which one falls to the ground first. They report back their results and note down anything they’d like to explore further. The lesson comes to an end and Andreas asks them to make observations of the four moons of Jupiter over the next four weeks until they meet again. The children leave the hall for their break.


 Part Two

The second half begins with the children arriving in Galileo’s study (the Hall) one month later. The room has been clearly disturbed. Galileo’s books, papers, tools and stargazing paraphernalia have been scattered across the table and floor; the student’s homework has been torn. Cardinal Barbarini appears and explains that Galileo has been taken to prison by soldiers of the Inquisition (Court set up by the church.) He has managed to send a letter asking for the students to try and help convince the church that his theories are possible. Cardinal Barbarini demands that they explain themselves.

A discussion ensues and an informal court is set up to enable the students to present their arguments for why they, and Galileo, believe that the sun is at the centre of the universe and not the earth. The cardinal states that he will take what they have said to the trial but cannot guarantee that their words will change the courts mind. The programme ends when the teacher/actor returns to tell the group what happened to Galileo in the trial. The teacher/actor also asks the children about how our ideas of the universe have changed and advanced since Galileo’s time.


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