More pictures of this day can be seen on my Flickr page. They were taken by Kayleigh Kölker, Joey Roelands, Roel Witvers and yours truly.
Remember the space recipes contest? Two of my students won the first round and were invited to the finale! This would take place at ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy in Dwingeloo, which is about a five hour journey from the very south east of the Netherlands. On top of that, the event would take place on a day in the week of our school’s finals, so it was a tricky one to organise. But, this teacher’s pleased to say that both the parents of Kayleigh and Joey said ‘yes’, as well as the head of our school. So off we went for an unexpected school trip, which was a lot of fun as well as educational.
Since it was the week of the school’s finals, I did promise my boss and the parents that I would make Kayleigh and Joey study on the train. And after all, they did have a teacher all to themselves all day. But since we weren’t officially in class, smartphones, games and music were allowed too. I am used to travelling long distances, but I didn’t know how my students would like it. They didn’t seem to mind this journey though. Plus it was extra special we were travelling on the school’s business passes. When we arrived in Hoogeveen, there was a taxi waiting just for us. So we felt very ‘VIP’. Selfies were taken and I explained the programme for the day.
When we arrived, the contestants got cool name badges, which said on Kayleigh’s that she’s a Milky Way Cocktail Shaker and Joey was a Dark Matter Maker (which meant he had made a recipe for a mysterious dessert). There were tables with the ingredients and the contestant’s names on them. Anke, who organised this event as one of the winning recipes will end up in her new book, had made sure there was enough help around and I was allowed to lend a helping hand too. Joey’s Dark Matter Dessert (which contains raspberries because we had learned space smells a bit of raspberries and also chocolate, because “it’s the best thing in our universe”) had to be prepared and put back in the freezer. Meanwhile Kayleigh put her green and healthy-for-astronauts smoothie in the blender.
There were many other kids around, mostly younger than both Kayleigh and Joey, and mostly from this neighbourhood. Joey had noticed how well prepared some of them had been and he complimented his neighbour on her E=mc2 cake. Meanwhile a lovely band (a whole family) played some lovely Irish music and I bumped into a few familiar faces. As you may know, I have an honorary affiliation with ASTRON, so it was nice to catch up with some of the people working here.
Before the competition started, we were welcomed by ‘Professor Melkpak’ and Ilse van Bemmel gave an excellent lecture on the Milky Way and on what they do at ASTRON. Then Anke presented the (many) people of the jury, which was a group of astronomers, professional bakers and shakers and some who would judge the creativity of the contestants. Kayleigh heard she would have to go first, which made her a little nervous. Maybe even more so because none of the younger kids seem to worry about it. She did very well though and the jury loved her not-too-sweet smoothie, with the clever details of star fruit and strawberries (Earthberries in Dutch!) as decoration.
The kids had all been very creative indeed. After the shakes it was time for the mysterious Dark Matter dishes and Joey would have to go last. He had been relaxed all day, but suddenly reminded me of how nervous he was for his show and tell back in school and you know, in this case it was about five times more people in the audience. The poor kid was literally hyperventilating, but still wanted to do it. If I’d go with him, which I did. In this state, he forgot how to draw a star on his dish, so it didn’t get the highest points for presentation, but the baker of the jury told him later he got a 10/10 for taste! It was great to see both my students being proud of themselves too, for having participated.
Although it was a close call, neither of them eventually won. That didn’t matter much though, as they had already said on the train that if they wouldn’t , they still would’ve had a great day. Needless to say I was proud of them as well. I did ask them though, at the end of the day, if they still thought it was worth the trip and they both wholeheartedly said yes. Before we headed back, Professor Melkpak let them use his Segway, which was a popular item naturally. I also quickly showed them the telescope, which they thought was impressive too. And they got a nice little reminder of the day.
On the way back I was told we were sat on a train which looked like the Harry Potter one and they noticed how the landscape was different from back home (really flat). Joey also remarked how I’m quite nice outside the classroom and he thought it was all taken care of very well. I did of course sneak in a few extra lessons, saying I had no idea which train to get on next and let them figure it out. It was also great to see Joey taking his headphones off when the conductor came as apparently I had told him in school once that it was not polite to keep them on when talking to someone, even if you don’t have any music on (THEY DO LISTEN TO ME)!
It was past bedtime when we arrived back in Heerlen. Proud parents were waiting to pick them up. And the other day Kayleigh came to school with a present: she had framed a photo of the three of us, which now has a place on my desk. It really was a great day!