From Tenterfield High School to the moon is a REAL Project

Tenterfield High School students have their eyes set on the moon. They're building a lunar colony - and some of them may set foot on our satellite.

Over the past fortnight, they've built sphero robots, balloon-powered rovers, and rockets (powered by soda and vinegar); designed lunar flags; and sculpted the lunar surface (in whipped cream). By the end of the term, they'll have created a lunar lander and a hot water system for the colony.

Asking for the moon? No: all part of the school's first REAL Project, a cross-curricular, open-ended, topical research project for Year 7's.

"Last year was the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11," librarian and social studies teacher Martin Marshman said. "They're also talking about going back to the moon at the moment - and this time it will be to stay and make a colony."

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Every week this term, the 55 Year 7 students spend a day working on their lunar schemes. Half the time is content-based learning, the other half is hands-on activities in a maker space.

A large building project spans the three months of the term, while students complete smaller projects (lunar modules, one might say) every fortnight as they conceive what their colony will need.

The students learn technological know-how, model-making, and modern history. Mr Marshman runs the Project with colleagues from science and art & design / technology - proving that knowledge is connected.

"We want to make sure [students] are aware that knowledge is across all learning areas," Mr Marshman said.

The traditional idea that subjects are siloed and separate is a falsity, he explained. "A lot of schools are trying to move this way. They're making things a bit more reality-based."

The students enjoy the creativity, novel activities, and working with others, but they also learn vital skills for adult life: creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration.

"The world these kids will enter is going to be very different to the one that we entered," Mr Marshman said. "The world of work will be based on those four C's."

And that world of work might well take them to the moon and beyond. One of these Tenterfield kids might settle on the moon one day. Until then, the REAL Project is a cool way to prepare for the challenges of the 21st century.