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Spacewalk to the stars at the Oxford Literary Festival

Tuesday 16th April 2024

“We can all be astronauts (or anything else) if we put our minds to it.”

Here at Science Oxford, we love to inspire curious children to explore our amazing world and reach for the stars! So, we were delighted to unlock our inner astronauts with author and illustrator, Kate Pankhurst, at the fantastic Oxford Literary Festival 2024.

Last March, we invited twenty pupils and their families from St Andrew’s school in Oxford (years 2-4) to join us for an interactive show with Kate, the bestselling creator of the Fantastically Great Women series. Along with props, space costumes and a fun ‘draw-along’, the sold-out talk was introduced by Andrew Kensley, Science Oxford’s Deputy Director of Education and Head of Outreach, Training and Communities.

Curious kids discovered what shooting stars are really made of, how to ‘spacewalk’, and learn about space shuttle trips. Kate a distant relative of renowned suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst is author of Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the WorldFantastically Great Women: Scientists and their Stories and We are All Astronauts. Mixing science, technology, engineering, and maths topics with stories to help young people figuring out their place in the world, Pankhurst’s new series is an accessible, fun and friendly introduction to space. Many of the children were able to meet Kate and take home her inspiring books.

Kate Pankhurst event OLF 2
Kate Pankhurst at Oxford University's Continuing Education Lecture Theatre

What were the best bits?

When we asked what our next generation of space explorers enjoyed the most, everyone absolutely loved learning about aliens, launching rockets on stage, and drawing! Some children were a little wary of space travel-sickness, feeling home-sick for our planet “I wouldn’t want to leave our world, or even technical problems “the rocket might explode”.  Valid points.

When asked, ‘Would you like to be an astronaut and why?’ there were more optimistic responses: “Yes, because I could see microscopic aliensandI would rather be a rocket scientist, but wouldn’t mind being an astronaut!” – and, our favourite, “We can all be astronauts (or anything else) if we put our minds to it.” 

The future is in good hands! 

Ben O’Donnell,  Director of Children & Young People’s Programme, Oxford Literary Festival said,

It was a huge delight to have Kate Pankhurst at the Oxford Literary Festival this year, all the more so as it allowed us to continue our collaboration with the wonderful Science Oxford, inspiring new generations through great science and children's literature.
Kate Pankurst crop
Future explorers spacewalk to the stars with Kate Pankhurst!

About Kate Pankhurst: 

Kate’s illustration and writing journey began as a child, from reading stories in her local library and by creating her own comic. Kate is distantly related to the incredible suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, which has helped to inspire her to write the stories of Fantastically Great Women from history in an accessible way for young readers. When she is not doodling (“the best way to begin a story“), writing and drawing, Kate works with children and teachers, sharing her journey, the stories of great women and inspiring and igniting a love for reading. From small things big things can grow …

Science Oxford Recommends: Kate Pankhurst Fantastically Great Women Series

About Science Oxford

The Science Oxford Centre is the UK’s first indoor-outdoor primary science education centre, with over 20 hands-on exhibits in the Exploration Zone and 15 acres of woodland. Open every Saturday for Family Days and regular STEM Clubs – see what’s on.

photo of Andrew Kensley
Science Oxford's Deputy Director of Education, and Head of Outreach, Training and Communities, Andrew Kensley

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