Scientists in Schools

Out of this world

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  • Anne Maree Jones, St Joseph's School, Boronia, Victoria
  • James Murray, Astrophysicist and Quantitative Analyst, ANZ Bank

You can be excused for assuming these students are preparing themselves for the next soccer World Cup. In contrast, Dr. James Murray has been teaching them some very interesting astrophysics.

Imagine the delight when Dr. James Murray visited St. Joseph's School and asked the students to grab a ball and some hula hoops and follow him outside. But this was not about sport; it was much more cosmic than that! James utilised these basic pieces of equipment to demonstrate the solar system and how the different planets revolve around the sun.

simulating craters on the moon

Learning about planets

Groups of students pretended to be each of the planets and were located at relative distances from the sun on the football oval. Students
counted how many revolutions of the sun they made in the allocated time and reported back to the group. There was much locking of arms, laughter and the occasional number shouted from Neptune up at the goal posts! James incorporated this with a presentation on the solar system and a demonstration on how craters are created when the students arrived breathless back in the
James continues to be a valuable contributor to school classes with regular visits and presentations on all things relating to the great and vast universe. His visits over the last couple of years have also involved discussions about what different planets might look like. The students are then encouraged to write a story about their planet with James returning to hear the stories and discuss them.

The solar system on the oval James explaining Classroom demonstration