Wakefield school children quiz American astronaut and Leeds United player for News Day challenge

Children at primary schools across Wakefield were given the chance to interview aspiring American astronaut Abigail Harrison as part of a news-related challenge day.

OPA Ledger Lane students working on story
OPA Ledger Lane students working on story

Children took part in the challenge, which saw all Year 5 children from an Outwood Grange Academies Trust sponsored school take part.

The children were set the task of creating their own ‘newspaper’ in a day, that led to them becoming reporters, editors and journalists to produce a school newspaper.

Rachael Skirrow, Principal at Ofsted-rated Outstanding Outwood Primary Academy Ledger Lane, said: “We believe in doing all we can to support our children to reach their full potential and to make education fun.

OPA Kirkhamgate children with Ben Parker

"This is why we hold events like the OPA News Day, which was such a fun experience not only for the children but also the staff.”

As part of the challenge the children spoke with Abigail Harrison, an international STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) and space ambassador, who founded The Mars Generation.

The Mars Generations is a non-profit organisation that focuses on building a stronger tomorrow by energising young children about space and STEM and educating them, as well as adults, about the importance of deep space exploration to humankind.

The children discussed a wide range of topics with Astronaut Abby, from what the best thing could be to find on Mars all the way to if being female can potentially be a barrier to progressing a career in science.

The young reporters also asked Abby what inspires her to become an astronaut, to which she said: “I was inspired to become an astronaut because of a love and a passion I have always had for space.

"One of my earliest memories is of when I was 3 or 4 years old, standing outside in my backyard, looking up at the night sky and seeing the stars and being filled with this sense of awe and wonder, having all these questions about our solar system and about our universe. I realised then I wanted to be part of finding the answers to those questions.”

Rachael said: “We are very grateful to Abigail for her video call because you could see how inspired the children were hearing her story and how fascinated they were when discussing space exploration.”

The interviews didn’t stop there with the budding reporters interviewing former Leeds United player, Ben Parker.

The children quizzed the ex-footballer about the impact of the pandemic on sport, and how important sport is for a person’s health and well-being. The children also quizzed staff at the academy as they wrote articles about the local community.

Pupils will also interview a member of staff in their academy to gather local/academy news for their newspaper.

To start the day, the children were given a surprise when a video message recorded by local BBC presenters, Amy Garcia and Ian White, was played to them.

Amy and Ian wished the students good luck with their task before giving them some insider knowledge of working in the news, and offering them helpful advice for their challenge ahead.

In the video, Ian said: “News is important because it informs us and tells us about the things that are happening around the World. If it’s bad news, like the negative effects of poisonous gases and single-use plastics, on the planet, then hopefully by talking about it, and informing people, something can be done to stop it.”

Lee Wilson, Chief Executive of Outwood Primary, said: “A huge thank you to everybody who gave up their time to be part of the News Day. The children really enjoyed the challenge of piecing together a paper from different sources of information, while being taught about a range of subjects by different people.”

The other Wakefield-based primary schools that took part were Outwood Primary Academy (OPA) Lofthouse Gate, OPA Bell Lane, OPA Park Hill, OPA Newstead Green, OPA Kirkhamgate.