Students from Walton High, a school in Milton Keynes, have been finding out that the sky is definitely not the limit when it comes to research at The Open University (OU).
In late July, as part of their digital media production course, ten BTEC students visited the OU campus to find out more about its work on Europe’s comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta – the world’s first mission to land on a comet.
Working with scientists at the OU’s world-leading planetary and space sciences department, students produced short videos about the mission whilst developing their media skills in the process. They discovered what makes a great media story whilst also learning how to script, choreograph and present pieces to camera.
Dr Ross Burgon, Co-ordinator for the ‘Rosetta in the UK’ Public Engagement Campaign:
“Getting students involved in science communication is a great way to broaden the audience of people learning about the Rosetta Mission.”
Manisha Meisuria, Media Production Teacher at Walton High:
“The OU have provided our students with an invaluable experience in filmmaking. Working with industry professionals has allowed the students to understand the processes need to produce a professional standard of work. And the students have also learnt about an area of cutting-edge Open University research in the process.”
The students were split into two teams of five, working under the supervision of presenter Janet Sumner, cinematographer Gerard Giorgi-Coll and Assistant Producer Tom Ryan. Jess Carr, working as an intern at the OU, also provided additional support.
Over the course of the five days of training they produced two videos, one exploring the human story behind Rosetta, the other documenting aspects of the OU's scientific contribution to the mission. You can watch the videos below.
The human story
The scientific story
The videos contribute towards the students’ BTEC studies and to the application process for those looking to go to university.
Promoting sustainable engagement with research
This training connects two RCUK-funded projects: the Public Engagement with Research Catalyst, 'An Open Research University', and the School-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI), Engaging Opportunities. The aim of the training sessions is to support students with the transition from school to university and/or work and get them interested in the social, economic and ethical impacts of university research.
Funded by Research Councils UK over three years, we are working with local schools to offer students opportunities to participate in mutual learning and develop relevant and useful skills and competencies in how to access, assess, analyse and respond to contemporary research.
Working with OU researchers and the Denbigh Teaching School Alliance across Milton Keynes we are providing school students with opportunities to engage directly with research and researchers from different academic disciplines. And connecting students with OU researchers provides direct engagement and opportunities to discuss the relevance and value of the impacts from OU research.
Quote from Helen Brown, Assistant Head Teacher at Denbigh School, the coordinating partner in the OU’s School-University Partnership Initiative.
"This is the fifth time we’ve run the media project. It provides sixth-form students with a fantastic opportunity to learn from media professionals and gain insight into the challenges of the workplace. As well as being inspired, students learn a wide range of new skills, particularly around leading and managing a film shoot, as well as in learning to use sound in a professional way. In terms of preparation for a future career in the media, this is an unrivalled experience for students across schools in Milton Keynes."
Getting students to engage directly with world-leading research, such as the OU’s work on the Rosetta space mission, provides students with an opportunity to directly interrogate academics about the role research can play in our lives. It also gets students to think critically about how research is currently presented in a range of media, and to create their own accounts through short videos.
The wider project provides a valuable opportunity for us to develop partnerships with schools across Milton Keynes and for the university to engage with our local community, getting students interested in the exciting and varied research we do and offering them opportunities to contribute in ways that are valued by them.
The media training workshop was funded as part of the OU's RCUK-funded Public Engagement with Research (PER) Catalyst, 'An Open Research University'.
To find about more about RCUK's PER Catalyst programme, select: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/pe/catalysts
To find about more about OU's RCUK-funded SUPI partnership with the Denbigh Teaching School Alliance, select: Engaging Opportunities.
To find about more about RCUK's School-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI), select: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/pe/PartnershipsInitiative
We're extremely grateful for the support we received from the Department of Physical Sciences at the OU, and the Rosetta researchers, including Professor Ian Wright, Dr Andrew Morse, Dr Geraint Morgan, Dr Dan Andrews, all from the OU, and Dr Stephen Lowry from the University of Kent.
Dr Ross Burgon (OU) was invaluable in helping us to organize the filming. Mark Russell (Denbigh School) liaised with local schools to recruit the students who underwent the training.