Denny High pupils had stars in their eyes

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A group of Denny High School pupils had stars in their eyes recently when they visited the Open University’s (OU) Observatory in Spain.

The ten youngsters, all in second and third year, are members of the Denny High Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) club and were invited to the £5.4 million facility in Tenerife by Dr Alan Cayless, an astronomer and tutor at the OU.

Over the past year, the pupils have been helping Dr Cayless develop a new, open access astronomy course.

As part of their project work they have been testing bespoke software that will let people around the world order the OU’s Completely Autonomous Service Telescope (COAST) to take pictures of deep space.

As well as visiting the OU’s telescopes in Tenerife the pupils made friends with teenagers from a local high school and visited the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos, a science museum in the north of the island.

The pupils raised money for the trip themselves by organising a series of events, including a community stargazing event and a Christmas fair.

Dr Cayless said: “We are fortunate to have good links with local schools and are very grateful to the STEM class at Denny High.

“After all the hard work they put into helping develop the course, it seemed fitting to invite them to visit the telescopes in Tenerife and see them in person.” Denny High School teacher Kathryn Sharp, who runs the STEM club, added: “Trips like this bring science to life for our pupils, which is so important.

“Being able to visit one of the world’s most impressive telescopes, and meet a team of astronomers with a real passion for the night sky was really inspiring for the pupils.

“STEM is a real focus for us at Denny High School and we’re constantly seeking new partnerships and collaborations to show our pupils where STEM subjects can take them. In this case it’s infinity and beyond!”