I’m new to Explorer Dome, and new to 5am wake ups! But as we head off from Bristol in all directions, to Devon, Cornwall, Gloucester and London, we soon wake up enough to start constellation spotting in the pre-dawn gloom. Sometimes we even spot planets, like Venus, and if we’re really lucky, Mercury. And although it is early, I enjoy the opportunity to put my new star-gazing know-how from the dome into practice under the real night sky.
I’ve always loved looking up into the night sky - that sense of awe-inspired, peaceful silence that washes over me as I take in the vastness of the universe. Always keeping my eyes peeled to catch a glimpse of shooting stars.
Bringing the stars out in the dome is always a highlight of our science shows. I don’t get bored of the gasps of amazement from the kids. The other week we even received a round of applause from a Year 5 class as the stars burst into life around them.
That sense of wonder often prompts questions, particularly in the older children, and the deeper they want to go, the deeper we dive. It’s amazing how quickly their questions reach the edges of current understanding, posing the very queries that leading scientists puzzle over and space programs plan missions to address.
We love getting the kids to interact, and so also ask them lots of questions. Sometimes our questions probe their understanding - how many stars are there in the entire solar system? But we also use questions as a tool to get the younger kids interacting with our storytelling. This can be a lot of fun for us as presenters!
Here’s one rather silly example. In the key stage one shows for infants, we tell the tale of Orion the hunter and then move into the stars to point out his constellation. Orion was a bit of a show off and bought three huge diamonds to put in his belt, we ask the children what they would buy if they had all that gold. Some of the answers might not be surprising, “Sweeties!” “Chocolates!” “Toys!” But others are a little more, “left-field,” as one teacher commented - “A hot dog stall!” “A herd of goats!”
Bless their cotton socks! The children really make presenting in the dome a fun job, with laughter, applause and the occasional hug rewarding those early mornings. That and the spare chocolate muffin or jam doughnut from the dinner ladies helps to fuel us as we pack up the equipment and head back to base in our star-studded vans.