'Newton in space' DVD: a fresh approach to teaching science
The new educational DVD 'Newton in Space' was enthusiastically received during its first showing last week. Using a fun and fresh approach, the 17-minute film illustrates how simple experiments, in space and on Earth, can be used to investigate Newton's three laws of motion.
Produced with the input of experts and teachers, the DVD is designed for use in the classroom to encourage group exercises with students of 12-18 years of age. 'Newton in Space' is the first in a series of educational DVDs ESA is releasing to demonstrate basic scientific principles in ways children can relate to.
The DVD, which can be played in 11 European languages (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish), was shown for the first time during a launch event at the Erasmus User Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands on Friday 10 September.
Switching between scenes filmed in space and on Earth, the DVD illustrates how Newton's laws can be explored using everyday situations.
Spanish ESA astronaut Pedro Duque worked with his Russian colleague, Alexander Kaleri, to perform experiments on board the ISS during the Cervantes Mission in October 2003. On the ground, 48 pupils from three European schools used skating rinks, swimming pools and snooker halls as their 'test laboratories'.
Appealing to children
Introducing the DVD, Pedro Duque expressed his gratitude to ESA for recognising the importance of educational activities by giving them equal priority in the mission schedule. Duque hopes that the DVD will appeal to children, "Alexander and I took it very seriously, but as with every activity in space, we tried to make it a little bit fun."
The students who were filmed for the DVD certainly enjoyed the experience. Stephen Rigney, a pupil at Coláiste Dhúlaigh College, Dublin, Ireland, said, "Doing the experiments was great fun. We were learning science without really realising it."
Speaking on behalf of students from the IES Pompeu Fabra in Martorell, Spain, Jordi Soriano, added, "We learnt that Newton's laws are very easy and can be illustrated using simple objects. We would like to let the students around Europe know that physics is not as difficult as they think – it is all around us in everyday life."
Science and technology
Also attending the launch event were board members of the ISS Education Fund (ISSEF). ESA has set up the ISS Education Fund to enable organisations and individuals to support educational projects - including the 'Newton in Space' DVD - using the ISS as a tool to encourage more young people in Europe to study science and technology.
ISSEF Chairman, Manuel Paiva, was pleased with the result. Before thanking the participants, including the astronauts and the students, Paiva, himself a university professor, appealed to schoolteachers, "The future of science and engineering will depend mainly on highly trained and motivated teachers, who are our privileged partners. They may use this DVD in many different ways and go much further than the ISS."
Tool for teachers
Included with in DVD package is a Teachers Guide, which contains an introduction to the ISS, interdisciplinary classroom activities, as well as further reading and web references.
Kevin Dowling, a science teacher at Coláiste Dhúlaigh College, was enthusiastic about using the DVD in the classroom, "The examples are practical and are not easily forgotten. Normally we would use a textbook, but the DVD is ideal to get ideas going."
10 000 copies of the 'Newton in space' DVD will be distributed to schools throughout Europe. In Germany the distribution of 2000 copies of the DVD will be funded by the German space agency, DLR, an ISSEF funding participant. Hartmut Ripken, responsible for school and youth projects at DLR, said, "The DVD uses a language and vision that kids today need. The message that science is something interesting and fun comes across."
Second DVD lesson
The second DVD in the series, which will illustrate the effects of gravity on the human body, is due for release in January 2005. Scenes for ISS DVD Lesson II were filmed during the DELTA Mission of Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers. Also present at the launch event, André Kuipers was impressed with what he had seen, "I really enjoyed it. This is going to be hard to beat!"
To receive a copy
If you are a teacher of pupils aged 12-18, and you would like a copy of the ISS DVD Lessons to use in your school, please complete the request form linked below.