Ideas take flight at Tyneside school

Could the Angel of the North actually fly? How do birds take off? How high can a butterfly fly and how many times does a bumblebee have to beat its wings every second to stay off the ground?

These were among the tricky questions posed to scientists when Newcastle University took to the road to recruit the help of schoolchildren in their preparations for The British Science Festival coming to the city in September 2013.

In the build up to the prestigious event, which is to be hosted by Newcastle University with Northumbria University and Newcastle City Council as associate partners, a community campaign has been launched entitled Ideas Take Flight. This will give residents of all ages the chance to help shape the content of the six day festival and find out more about what’s in store for visitors.

The campaign’s first stop was Southridge First School in Whitley Bay where two classes of 30 eight-year-olds had the chance to get answers to their thought-provoking questions about flight.

Newcastle University lecturer Professor Robin Johnson brought along a scale model of the Angel of the North he had created to explain the principles of flight and to explore whether the real Antony Gormley sculpture could fly if it had the means to takeoff. While local artist Yvette Hawkins held workshops teaching origami and kirigami, a form of origami which includes cutting, to create paper versions of the Angel of North, birds, butterflies and other flying things.

Year three pupil Francesca Lesley Burridge said: “We’ve learned all kinds of things about flight and what creatures, such as tiny midges, need to do to be able to fly. It’s been really interesting.”

Teacher Marlynn Rosario said: “The workshops have been absolutely brilliant and have really inspired the children about the subject of flight. They soaked up lots of facts, had a chance to have their questions answered and put their listening skills to the test.

“The session has certainly whetted their appetite for the British Science Festival too and I’m sure many of the children will be encouraging their families to get involved when the time comes.”

A selection of the children’s work is being showcased on the Ideas Take Flight campaign’s website at  as well as a step-by-step video demonstrating how to make each of the origami designs.

Residents are now being invited to follow the video instructions to make their own origami and post photos of their finished artworks at locations around the North East on Twitter using the hashtag #ideastakeflight.

Newcastle University Deputy Vice Chancellor Ella Ritchie said: “It’s a real coup for Newcastle University to be hosting Europe’s largest and longest-running science event and it’s testament to our world-class scientific strength that this will be the seventh visit of the festival to the city.

“We are really excited about getting the people of the North East involved with the festival – getting their input on what science themes they’d like exploring, what experiments they would like to have a go at and what questions they have for the celebrated scientists that will be taking part.

“As preparations get under way for the festival the Ideas Take Flight campaign will provide lots of opportunities for people to suggest their ideas and get involved.”

The British Science Festival has been running since 1831 and is organised each year by The British Science Association – bringing together hundreds of the UK’s top scientists, journalists and tens of thousands of members of the public. The festival programme caters for audiences of all ages and all levels of scientific understanding; from professional scientists to families on a day out.

The Festival’s nationwide ‘Call for Proposals ‘is also being launched today (July 4, 2012). Any organisation or individual is welcome to consider organising an event to be part of the British Science Festival.

For more information on the British Science Festival visit