BACKGROUND TO 'OUT OF THIS WORLD'

In 1979 Devon Local Educational Authority launched an initiative entitled, 'Teaching for a World of Limited Natural Resources'.  I was then Head of Chemistry at Chulmleigh Community College, one of the four schools in the county chosen to develop teaching materials on this theme.  I took as my starting point Buckminster Fuller's concept of 'Spaceship Earth'. Over the next 5 years I spent considerable time producing and revising material for a 12 week module  for  Year 9 (13/14 year old) students.

Following the scheme's success, I was keen to explore its usefulness with both younger and older students. In the academic year 1985 - 1986 I was granted a year's secondment on a Diploma in Applied Educational Studies course with the Centre For Global Education (or World Studies, as it was then known) at the University of York. During the year I refined an expanded the teaching pack, trialling the materials at a number of primary and secondary schools in Devon, Bristol and Yorkshire. I also developed a computer programme for the then state-of-the-art computer, the BBC Master, and produced a short video, shot with the school's newly acquired video camera. The whole package was published by the then Devon Educational & Television Resources Service, and the limited edition quickly sold in the U.K. and English schools abroad.

By the time returned to the classroom at the end of my year's secondment things had moved on; a National Curriculum was being imposed, and the opportunity for flexible, cross-curricular activities was virtually non-existent. Rigidly imposed targets, ticking boxes and conformity were in vogue, at least among our paymasters, and the likes of 'Out Of This World' were indeed alien species. My project was only good for gathering moon dust ! In the subsequent years of my teaching career until early retirement in 1995, there was never another opportunity to use the teaching pack I had produced.

FAST FORWARD TO 2013 ...

Saving the planet is now mainstream politics, in words if not in action. Green issues, global warming, dwindling natural resources, recycling and renewable energy are all topics that are impossible to ignore in the media. The issues and topics considered in 'Out Of This World' are therefore even more important and relevant today than they were nearly 3 decades ago. The difference, however, is that those those who voice concern, from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, for example, are no longer regarded as minority-fringe eco-freaks. An ecologically sustainable future is now in the limelight on the stage of international diplomacy.

Whereas source material and supplementary reading on environmental issues was relatively scarce and not particularly student-friendly when my project was conceived, the internet has made a vast amount of such information available to everyone. The questions still need to be asked but the wherewithall to give reasoned answers based on facts and 'expert' opinion is at the fingertips of every student.

Ideally in my original project, instead of improvising with a crude BBC Basic monitoring programme, a scrolling space chart of acetate roll on an overhead projector and magnetic 'spaceships' stuck to a screen, I would have liked to have had a fully computerised stage two space journey simulation with interactive scrolling screen and realistic graphics. This was not feasible with computer memory measured in a few megabytes, but today, with giga-going-on-terabytes in every home PC, such programmes are not only possible, but the writing of such a program is probably within the capability of even your average teenage computer geek.

... AND BEYOND

Retired from teaching for many years now, I have neither the time nor the contacts within the profession to bring 'Out Of This World' fully up to date. Nor do I have the skills to write sophisticated computer programs. I am therefore making my original material freely available on-line, in the hope that someone will be able to make use of parts of it, or perhaps even feel inspired to run with the whole concept and adapt it to the twenty-first century classroom. 

I am making no charge for the material but if you would like to make a donation, any funds raised will be given to environmental conservation  and international aid charities. I'd appreciate acknowledgment as the source of the idea, and I'm happy to give further details or offer advice on any aspect of the package. If it's of any use, other than as a museum piece, I still have all the pages of the original BBC Basic computer program. Any comments and notification of any errors also welcome!

Colin Andrews, January 2013

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