Ever wish you could visit other planets in our solar system without launching on a deep-space mission? Here in the woodland we’ve done just that. Space was our 2019 to 2020 project, and culminated in a sol e lumier show, that never quite happened, due to Lockdown, but hopefully will one day.
With a little help from our friends:
With funding from Norfolk Community Foundation and Trailer Park we accomplished both these tasks: Kinda Forest School tribe and volunteers built a scaled size solar system in the woods. Along side this we modified and developed a trike into an International Space Wagon, solar powered, space disco. This doubles up as a movable sound and light system for our Forest School.
Here’s how we did it.
The idea was conceived and stimulated by the 50th anniversary in 2019 of the moon landing, when Neil Armstrong walked on our Earths Moon, and we began our physical ventures into space (we’d already been exploring by observation for thousands of years). My mother, not given to acts of imagination, made me stand in our back garden and look up at the moon, knowing 3 human beings were up there right then. It was a memorable event in many of our lives.
Why not create a symbolic solar system in our 5 acre wood? A few symbolic solar systems existed, perhaps the most well known one being the Swedish Solar System, the world’s largest permanent scale model of the Solar System. While Sweden used the length and breadth of it’s long landmass to encompass relative distances, this would not be possible in a 5 acre woodland (Pluto would be beyond Southwold), but we could attempt the planets scale size.
As we began to investigate the planets more, (a planet a week at KFS Wednesdays) we realised the importance of form to function, how the physical form (size, orbit, rotation, chemistry and geology) influences its function. This emphasised the need to try and represent the planets relative size.
We applied for funding and received it from the Holton Community Windfarm (Norfolk Community Foundation, the Villages Community Fund) for £1,500. We also applied to enter the wonderfully wacky Art Caravan Competition run by Trailer Park at Latitude, and got accepted as a trailer rocket with £500 covered to convert. We were rocket powered and ready for take off!
Vernal Equinox beginnings Spring 2019
With Kinda Forest School, our investigation kicked off with Spring (Vernal) Equinox, (March 20) grasping the concept of the tilt to the earth as it circled the sun, giving us our seasons. In three groups we formed Sun, Earth, Moon and with the tilt, took up positions Winter, Spring Summer Autumn. I learned from one of our tribe that the Sun was not static – of course it wasn’t. We were all turning and learning.
How to memorise the planets in our solar system? A Mnemonic of course. Or Monica’s as we call them.
Many Very Educated Men Just Screwed Up Nature
Mells VW Engine May Just Stop Us Not Parking
Planet a week
Starting with a Planet a week, we spent a part of each Wednesday on our solar system.
SUN What do you want to know about the Sun? Was the first kick off question, so our questions came, and some of the answers. With Jadzia we found a perfect mix of Rachel doing the physical stuff, while Jadzia unravelled the mythology, with story and facepainting, with the tribe taking on the characters of the planets. The SUN being the largest, was centered around our fire and parachute. Thanks to Julia and her mother, who sews oddments of yellow material into a 35 meter length. This was as far as we got with the sun. It is HUGE.
MERCURY Bo, one of our tribe, arrived at Forest School with his home work done and gave a fabulous exposition on Mercury. Meanwhile Molly drew all the solar system planets in their relative sizes. At 12 cm the winged messenger was a metal ball.
MARS and VENUS – because we missed a week we patched these two in together our, near neighbours. Just the night before Brian Cox gave an exposition on Mars . Rachel dressed in red, and this time Bo gave the lesson. He completely grasped the different orbiting and rotations.
EARTH – 32cm – In October Earth arrived. Made by James Nobbs, out of metal found in our earth, forged into utensils used for eating food grown on our earth, by human beings which are one of the animals which inhabit our earth.
JUPITER The largest of the planets, a huge gas planet. Very early on it’s material was found – literally. Of all the debris left behind in the wood, a long piece of black pipping left by previous owners, fitted the possibility. Working with the Swedish model the diameter of Jupiter is 3.5 meters, (compared to Earths 32 cm) . The place chosen by Bo and Rachel for Jupiter was between two straight oaks, roughly 4 meters apart. We got some help. Sam, who’d arrived to coppice and some very tall visiting Dutch crafted the gas giant. We added the red eye of the wind – a bicycle wheel.
SATURN the GAS GIANT, with ICE RINGS, the Roman God of Agriculture – symbolised by the Scythe. For this we did a call out on Facebook for any unwanted bicycle rims, with amazing success. People emptied out their sheds and garages, Virginia bequeathed us 6 bikes, in exchange for us doing one up. Lewin either renovated the bikes or we broke them down and use the rims for Saturn. Dave a volunteer helped with the re-inforcing of the structure. Saturn phase 1 construction
URANUS 1.3 meters The Father of all the gods, father sky. An Ice Giant, was woven by various kinda folk out of willow collected from near by. Started by Sue, finished by Eloise and added to by Michael, it is an alive planet, and will hopefully grow into the willow form.
NEPTUNE AKA Bo, brandishing a TRIDENT, fresh from a land of Ebay, spoke to us of Uranus blue calm and Neptunes great storms. Neptune was the last to be made and quickly out of 2 Hula Hoops, which may well be doubled up as Hula Hoops.
Using the Swedish model system and paring down we get the following relative sizes, with the Sun being the most challengeable: Solar SizePDF
Each planet has been made out of a material suited to its form and function and fitting into the wood and our ethos. Fabric, wood and metal, using mainly recycled objects, some found in the wood. Each planet will have it’s own identity and avatar, based on the mythology connected with it. Thanks to Leon and Ryan here who are our myth busters.
The Planet SOL et LUMIERE in Kaliwoods
It almost happened. In March 2020 the virus came and we locked down. But just before we locked down, we had a dress rehearsal.
Working to the deadline – nothing like a deadline – we got the planets almost complete.
With our invitation posted up all around, we’d invited local people to the woods – all of Halesworth, kids from local schools of Holton Primary and Edgar Sewter, prospective parents, local astronomical societies (Seething and DASH), to the woods for our sol et luminair
We’d begin at dusk showing off of the planets on the Vernal Equinox evening, exactly one year since we began our project. Beginning with the beginning of time, we’d go first to the sun, then around the planets one by one, culminating at Neptune, were we would enjoy some refreshment by a fire.
Bo, Leon and Ryan were leading on the theatre. Rachel on logistics.
MUSIC – using the International Space Wagon, solar powered space disco, thanks to Chris again, we got the speaker connected up and through blue tooth we could play our Solar Project MUSICPDF.
THE GAME – Bo’s idea to have a game, to introduce our Mneumonics Solar MnemonicsPDF to the gathered people at the beginning and at the end remind them and give a prize for the best one. In the end everyone got a prize.
By the skin of our teeth, a few of us gathered by private invitation only, practicing a new system called Socially Distancing, on the evening of the Vernal Equinox, by a fire on the hard standing. Tell us, I asked our resident Astronomer, Sam, how did the universe begin… (and after this forgot to take any photographs until the very end) Here’s the story of it.
Of course, we’d like to do it properly, when the virus has weakened. With full theatre.