Paras Shah trying on a spacesuit with cosmonaut Dr Alexander Martynov

Paras Shah trying on a spacesuit with cosmonaut Dr Alexander Martynov © The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School

Innovative activities can transform a classroom into another era or part of the world. But when tackling topics as expansive as outer space, sometimes it helps to launch the lesson beyond the school gates! We caught up with Ms Drake from The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Elstree, Hertfordshire, who took a group of students on an out-of-this-world field trip to meet Russian cosmonauts in Moscow.

Group photo with cosmonaut Aleksandr Samokutyayev and Miss Drake wearing a space suit

Group photo with cosmonaut Aleksandr Samokutyayev and Miss Drake wearing a space suit © The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School

What have you been studying recently?

At The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School (www.habsboys.org.uk) in Elstree, pupils can start learning Russian in Year 5 and they learn about Space and Astronomy in Year 8. In August 2018, they had the unique and exciting opportunity to combine these two interests on a field trip to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City near Moscow, to find out more about Russia’s role in the history of space exploration. Pupils heard first-hand from Russian Cosmonauts, who have spent up to 391 days living in space, about the intensive six-year training programme they went through and life as a cosmonaut on the International Space Station (ISS).

A model of the MIR space station

A model of the MIR space station © The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School

What did the kids think?

Highlights for pupils included trying on a genuine space suit and exploring life-sized models of MIR (an early Russian space station), the International Space Station and the Soyuz training capsules used to launch and dock at the ISS. They definitely made the most out of this opportunity to ask the cosmonauts about living in space, the experiments they conducted on the ISS, their reasons for wanting to become cosmonauts, their fears and the highs and lows of their time in space.

Inside the Soyuz training capsule

Inside the Soyuz training capsule © The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School

Aside from visiting the Cosmonaut Center, the students also enjoyed visiting Moscow’s iconic sites including Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin. For most pupils, this was their first trip to Russia and it will have left a lasting impression. Many described the trip as ‘the experience of a lifetime’ and ‘a memory to treasure’. They felt privileged and proud to be able to participate in the space masterclass which they found fascinating and stimulating and many are keen to go back to visit Russia again soon.

Habs boys in Zaryadye Park with St Basil's Cathedral in the background

Habs boys in Zaryadye Park with St Basil’s Cathedral in the background © The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School

Why is it important for children to learn about other people, places and cultures?

There will always be times of political tension and a lack of understanding between countries. It is therefore essential that children have intercultural learning opportunities to enable them to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world where projects such as the International Space Station programme – for which international collaboration is vital – is possible.

Keen to get learning? Explore our free activity sheets and teacher resource packs.