The Astronautical Challenge
The Astronautical Challenge is an adventure in learning co-created by Unlimited Theatre and Coney as part of the solar system of pieces Unlimited made happen to orbit their play A Mission To Mars, which toured UK theatres in 2010 and 2011.
Longtime friends Unlimited Theatre approached Coney to make an adventure in learning project to run in conjunction with their brilliant play for primary schools called Mission To Mars, itself co-produced with Polka and Northampton. We spent a couple of happy days around a garden table, plotting and scribbling, and came up together with what became The Astronautical Challenge. Its avowed aim was to get children excited about the bigness of the universe but that through science even the smallest people can tackle its challenges. We also wanted to make sure that it had real science at its heart (no timey-wimey stuff).
Primary school classes are recruited by the Unlimited Space Agency (UNSA) to enter a competition against classes all over the world and find out if they have what it takes to be an astronaut. They are mentored through the competition by two teenagers who are cadets in UNSA. If the class is successful in meeting each challenge – reporting on something curious in the world, demonstrating Galileo’s famous gravity experiment, modelling the entire solar system in their playground – then their mentors are selected for a simulation expedition to Mars in an unknown desert and the class become their Mission Control. But then, just like Apollo 13, disaster strikes and only the class can help get them home.
Drawing upon their expertise in adventures in learning, Coney deliver The Astronautical Challenge to classes in collaboration with Radiowaves, a groundbreaking social networking site designed specifically for schools. Coney’s support is constant and responsive, but online and invisible, enabling teachers to go on the adventure with their class, while tailoring the episodes to suit each class’s needs.
Already enjoyed by over 500 pupils in more than 25 schools nationwide, The Astronautical Challenge has been universally praised by participating teachers:
“It was the most exciting thing I’ve done in teaching for a long time! The challenges certainly created enthusiasm and motivation for learning. The children were absolutely captivated and didn’t want the project to end.” – Jane Gibb, Flore CE Primary School.
We were delighted when The Astronautical Challenge won Unlimited Theatre the Arts, Culture and Heritage category at the 2011 UK Charity Awards.
We’re planning to run The Astronautical Challenge in the future as a stand-alone adventure as well as whenever Mission To Mars happens next.
The Astronautical Challenge is by Coney and Unlimited Theatre, produced by Unlimited Theatre, and delivered by Coney and Unlimited Theatre in association with Radiowaves.
Coney was here represented by Tom Bowtell, Tassos Stevens, and others.