Dr Nick Owen MBE PLUS

Working in and on the Business of Cultural Education

Questions for educators: what’s your Galileo moment?

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I led the  “Galileo – and still it moves” project back in the day when we thought Pluto was still a planet.  A small cluster of us – film makers Enormous Films, designer Cathy Cross and outdoor artist, Joe Smedley -worked with year 5 children at St. Gabriel’s Primary School in Knowsley to explore the planets and in doing so, develop their literacy and oracy skills.

We started off by researching Galileo and what he went through when he challenged the orthodoxy of the day ie that the sun revolves around the earth, rather than the other way around. We explained to the children about how badly he was treated and what a genius he was and how he suffered for his knowledge. All of which is no doubt true.

Although perhaps it’s not. One of interesting moments was when a young girl, when being told by one of us that Pluto was a planet, challenged us with the recent finding that Pluto was no longer deemed a planet but a dwarf planet, or a rock cluster of minor significance or just a large ice pack or something to that effect. Our colleague then responded to the challenge that as far as he was concerned, Pluto had been a planet when he was at school, still was a planet, and would be for the rest of his days.  Had Galileo been in the room at the time, he would have probably nodded sagely, shrugged his shoulders and motioned to the young girl to keep quiet as any further dispute would probably get her into trouble: and he should know, given the amount of trouble he had gotten into during his life time.

The irony of our colleague’s response was of course not lost on the Year 5 pupil who sat through the rest of the lesson with a slightly bemused look on her face. What we deem as knowledge is as uncertain and as flaky as it was in Galileo’s day.

So, what’s been your Galileo moment?

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Author: drnicko

Cultural Architect

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