Kids over the moon with NASA’s letter

Pupils from the Northumberland Church of England Academy with their letters that they sent to NASA.
Pupils from the Northumberland Church of England Academy with their letters that they sent to NASA.
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Space-mad pupils at a Northumberland school have had a message to reach for the stars – direct from top officials at NASA.

Inspired by British astronaut Major Tim Peake, children at the Northumberland Church of England Academy took part in the Write into Space drama project, with visiting creative learning company Mortal Fools.

The aim of the project was to spark an enthusiasm for writing and tackle the gender gap in literacy – which sees boys perform less well than girls.

More than 75 children took part from across three of the Academy’s primary campuses: Thomas Bewick, Josephine Butler and James Knott.

The pupils, who are in Years 5 and 6, worked together to create a play that involves an encounter between a character called Majornaut - named after Major Peake - and an alien. It was then performed by actors from Mortal Fools.

They also penned pretend letters to NASA explaining why they believe children should be allowed to join their next space mission.

Teacher Gemma Nardini, of the Academy’s Thomas Bewick Campus, in Ashington, said: “The aim of the drama programme with Mortal Fools has been to help show children that there is a real purpose to writing.

“Some children think that writing is boring, so we wanted to try and bring words to life.

“I was so impressed with their letters that I thought I would send them to NASA. I never really thought I would get a reply.”

“The children were so excited when they read it and some have been asking what they will need to study at school to be astronauts when they grow up.”

Mortal Fools works with both adults and young people across the North East, using drama to build confidence and develop skills through a range of workshops and projects.

Research has found that the visual, fun and participatory nature of drama can particularly inspire boys’ writing.

The project was supported by a £1,000 grant from the Northumberland Strategic Capacity Building Programme, funded by Active Northumberland.

Mortal Foods director, Kiz Crosbie, said: “Our youth theatre projects aim to enable the children to learn through doing, rather than just listening or reading. We also want to show that most importantly writing is fun.

“The children really enjoyed it. Those who said at first that writing was boring, now describe it as exciting. Their writing is also so much more expressive than when they started and they are using a wider vocabulary.

“Theatre can also help to broaden children’s life experiences, by bringing the world to them so that they can imagine what it would be like. It is also great for building confidence.”