PLC Sydney's bi-annual Science Summit, 2021 Expedition to the Eclipse 2021

The night of 26 May marked an important event in the astronomical calendar: the first visible total lunar eclipse in Australia since 2018. To commemorate the occasion, we held the ‘Expedition to the Eclipse’, a Science Festival run by students for students. Preparations began in Term 4 of 2020, with a group of passionate students from Years 7-12, meeting weekly with Mrs Hendriks and STEM Captain Julia Cummins, to plan the event.

Throughout the night, there was the opportunity to participate in a range of fun-filled science activities—from telescope making and rocket launching, to puppet and owl shows—all the while dressed in a spaced-themed costume! Gathering to watch the stunning blood moon at the end of the night topped off an incredible experience—one that could only be described as ‘out of this world’!

Marina Ruan, Year 11
STEM Captain 2022

How fortunate, grateful and thankful we are for being able to witness the total lunar eclipse on a clear night, having had a sausage sizzle and waffles from a food truck. The Expedition to the Eclipse was a student-led event held to encourage everyone to get out and enjoy witnessing a natural phenomenon with the use of telescopes and scientific understanding.

As the event planning evolved it became a cross-curricular event with the Big Band, Wind Ensemble and Chamber Strings playing and entertaining us on the night. The Chinese Club made and presented a moon shadow puppet show, and the Junior School Science and IT team produced an array of activities to do with the exploration of the solar system.

Volunteers from Year 10, 11 and 12 students escorted Year 5 and 6 students to a variety of activities on the night adding to a real sense of community.

I believe the highlight for many students was the owl show in the Audrey Keown Theatre and the Invertebrate House with fluorescent beetles and beasts. The telescopes manned by PLC Sydney staff, BINTEL astronomers and the Chalmers, Cummins and Yilan/Chow families were viewed with amazement and wonder by all.

There were two  highlights for me: the first was observing students looking up at the eclipse from all around the school, listening and in some cases dancing to the music from the Big Band. And the second, was the team work and laughter when the students organising the Science Festival put together 400 lava lamp kits, 300 show bags, 300 telescope kits and 400 rocket launching kits in the weeks leading to the event. The students who organised the event led by Julia Cummins should be very proud.

Mrs Fiona Hendriks
Science Teacher

Festival Highlights

The festival was an evening full of fun space-themed science events and activities including rocket launchers, make your own telescopes, fluorescent events (making lava lamps and viewing fluorescent insects in the Invertebrate House), meeting owls and of course, viewing the eclipse. Highlights also included the art and cake competitions.

One of the most popular and thrilling events of the night was the Owl Show—a big thank you to the Feathered Friends for coming in and presenting a breathtaking and knowledgeable performance. From barn and sooty owls, to the curlew bird—a crowd favourite after falling off the AKT stage and running through the aisles, allowing the girls to gently pet it. The owls soared powerfully over the girls’ heads with their immense wingspans, and everyone left the show delighted, and yes, we had a hoot!

One of the music performances for the night was the Wind Ensemble performance at the top of Hamilton in the new Multipurpose Centre. Wind Ensemble performed the pieces “Mars”, “Jupiter”, “Gladiator” and “Toy Story”, conducted by Mr Harper. The space-themed music was chosen to reflect the most important event of the night, the lunar eclipse. Shortly after the performance, the audience went out onto the balcony to watch the eclipse. The performance was a great success.

The rocket stall involved making and launching rockets, and was very popular throughout the night. At the beginning of the night, Year 10 and 11 committee members ran the stall and helped the Year 5 and 6 students to make their rocket. Each rocket had up to four fins and was personalised with each customer’s name. The rockets were launched using special equipment provided by Dr Van Heerden. At the end of the night, the rockets were left on the field to see which one had gone the furthest.

The Science Festival Committee would like to thank the Year 10 peer support leaders and Year 11 and 12 prefects for their leadership on the night, in leading the Junior School students. Thank you to the invertebrate team, coordinated by Ms Blount, who presented a fantastic show. And finally, the biggest, warmest thank you to Ms Hendriks and Julia Cummins.

Eshwari Surendran, Michelle Hong, Jennifer Su, Amy Feng, Jenny Liu, Madeline Chang, Year 10

Anastasia Prokhorov, Tessa Pavlis, Isabelle Ho Shon, Sasha Prokhorov, Year 9