Son of astronaut Buzz Aldrin comes to Sunderland to inspire next generation

The Aldrin Family Foundation, led by Dr Andrew Aldrin, has teamed up with trainee teachers at the University of Sunderland to inspire schoolchildren to become interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects.

Dr Aldrin joined the trainees – and Year 5 pupils from East Boldon Junior School – at Sunderland’s City Campus to officially launch the University’s Giant Mars and Moon Maps project in partnership with the Aldrin Family Foundation.

The programme will see trainee teachers from the University’s School of Education use giant interactive floor maps to bring the boundless possibilities of space and space exploration to life for pupils across the North East.

Dr Aldrin, whose father – American astronaut Buzz Aldrin – joined Neil Armstrong as the first people to walk on the Moon in 1969, said: “Today is a really interesting time in space and I think it is actually more exciting than when my father went into space.

“The reason is, up until this point, space has been something that we all observe. A few people get to participate like astronauts and billionaires, but in the next decade, so many more people are going to get to participate.

“Every one of these students is going to have an opportunity to build a space craft, fly into space, apply for real jobs on the Moon – being an electrician, repairing robots. So, space is becoming participatory rather than just observational and that is an incredible transition.”

During the launch event, the trainees and pupils also got the chance to hear from Aldrin Family Foundation Director Jim Christensen, former Director of Education at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Trainee teacher Nicola McCoy, who is studying a Primary Education PGCE at the University of Sunderland, said: “Andrew is so knowledgeable. It’s been really interesting working with him and the other staff at the Aldrin Family Foundation, particularly Jim, who is also a fountain of information.

“It’s helping me as a trainee teacher because it gives me the opportunity to work with children in an environment I haven’t experienced before. It shows how cross-curricular activities can be and how you can engage children in a really interesting way.”

Sunderland is the first UK university to partner with the Aldrin Family Foundation to help further its goal to educate and inspire the next generation to take on the challenges and opportunities of space.

Dr Aldrin said: “One of the things we really look for in developing partnerships is universities that have great educational schools, educational schools that are focused on really practical things, about training teachers and giving kids the tools to be successful in the world, and I thought Sunderland was a perfect match.”

Susan Edgar, Head of the School of Education at the University of Sunderland, recently shortlisted as University of the Year in this year’s THE – Times Higher Education – annual awards, said: “The Aldrin Family Foundation is dedicated to harnessing the inspiration of space to ignite a passion for STEM education in children and students of all ages and backgrounds through their Giant Mars and Moon Maps project.

“Trainee teachers from the BA Primary Education with QTS and BSc STEM Education with QTS teacher training programmes have worked closely with the Aldrin Family Foundation over the last year to develop exciting learning resources to support pupil learning in STEM linked to the inspiring Giant Mars and Moon Maps, for children in Key Stages 2 and 3 in our local schools.

“Our aim is to embed the Giant Mars and Moon Maps project into our Initial Teacher Training programme content to enable our trainees to utilise this unique resource to the benefit of our partnership schools.

“The School of Education, with our strong partnership with over 600 schools and colleges, is uniquely placed to support this Space Education outreach programme and the Giant Mars and Moon Maps project will benefit our local pupils and trainee teachers alike.

“We are delighted to be working with Andrew Aldrin and the Foundation team and we are looking forward to a long and successful partnership.”

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