Astronomy Parade @ the Small World Festival

Project aims:

To engage with hard to reach audiences, in particular children and members of the travelling community, and the musicians and crew who work the festival circuit.

To explore the concepts of scale and space

To stimulate debate and discussion around the subjects of astronomy and astrophysics,


To inspire and enthuse 300 people about astrophysics by holding an Astronomy Parade

To encourage more visitors to Small World to use the telescopes

To work in partnership with Small World Solar Stage and the Travelling Observatory to reach beyond the classroom to bring physics to a new audience.

Summary of activity:

We explored the scale and majesty of the universe by modelling the movement of the sun, earth & moon, and used what we could see through telescopes to create ‘realistic’ costumes for an astronomy themed Kids Parade at the Small World Solar Powered Festival in May 2012
This project was supported by an IOP public engagement grant
Every year the Small World Festival kids craft area put on a parade which traverses the festival site, with around 300 children, parents, musicians and festival goers cheering them along the route. In Spring 2012 the Making Place joined forces with the Travelling Observatory and the Small World Kids crew to help build giant lanterns in the shape of the planets and create a carnival style ‘Sun’ costume and children and adults made star lanterns and astronomy themed costumes to wear in a grand parade around the site.

The Making Place ran a workshop building models using a simple pulley system to make the moon rotate round the earth as it circles the sun, which was used to explain eclipses and to start discussions about the scale and nature of the universe. Participants also used the telescopes and images on the Travelling Observatory van as inspiration when decorating their models and creating the costumes.

The Making Place and Travelling Observatory volunteers discussed with participants what they know about astronomy & the solar system in the telescope dome using diagrams painted on the Travelling Observatory van as a backdrop for the telescopes and workshops.

Evaluation approach:

We recorded photographic & video evidence of the parade and costumes and workshops. Participants were also invited to give feedback using the IoP sample Exit Questionnaires.

What went well:

1.The number of adults who took part in the Making Place Orrery Workshop and costume making and the discussions about astronomy and physics which we entered into during these workshops

2.The way people used their observations through the telescopes to design and colour their models and creations.

3.The quality of photographs & video of this project, which are available on Facebook and YouTube

What was learned:

1.It was difficult to get many people to fill in formal questionnaires in a festival setting. However as a snapshot of participants attitudes and opinions the feedback forms have been invaluable as a tool

2. It was also very, very difficult to count the exact number of people participating in the parade or even in the craft workshops and telescope because people tend to drift in and out of these activities over the course of several days. The photographs and videos were essential for estimating numbers.


The complexity of the making activity attracets lots of adults rather than teenagers.

Top tips and advice for others

1. Do not to underestimate the value of written evaluation forms even if it is difficult to collect them, the feedback from just a few forms can be highly informative

2. Invest in professional photographers to record the activity.


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About the contributor

Susan Brumpton
The Making Place

I have organised numerous family science activities during my 10 year association with the Making Place (as employee, then trustee) and have run science engagement activities at music festivals and co…

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