CAMPAIGNS: Launch Publicity - On a space ’mission’ to educate kids

Client: National Space Science Centre

Client: National Space Science Centre

Campaign: Launch of the Challenger Learning Centre

PR Team: Wildwood Communications

Timescale: July 1999 - April 2000

Budget: pounds 9,600 (fees and costs)

The National Space Science Centre, a pounds 46 million Millennium

Landmark Project in Leicestershire, is due to open to the public in

spring 2001.

It will include an exhibition centre, a multimedia dome planetarium, a

research centre and the Challenger Learning Centre. The latter was set

up on a temporary site in Leicester and is now open to the public.

Challenger Centres had already been set up in the US and Canada with the

support of the families of those killed in the 1986 Challenger

space-shuttle disaster. The centre in Leicester is unique to Europe.

Children can experience ’the next best thing to an active space mission’

in a mission control room and in a room aboard an imaginary space



To build awareness of the centre, concentrating on an area within

one-and-a-half hour’s driving time from Leicester. To raise awareness

among science teachers nationwide and attract visitors from schools

around the country.

Strategy and Plan

In July 1999, a media audit of education correspondents on the national

press identified an opportunity to communicate the value of space as a

way of engaging more children in science. It revealed that most of the

correspondents believed that children found space ’cool’ and science

’boring’ by comparison.

In September, a survey of 1,026 children was conducted by Wildwood

Communications through Leicester schools, asking children between the

ages of ten and 13 for their views on science in the classroom, general

teaching methods and their interest in space. The results were packaged

into two parts - one light-hearted and the other a more detailed


The first revealed that 50 per cent of respondents wanted to be

astronauts, compared to 23 per cent who wanted to be footballers. These

results were released to BBC News to coincide with the opening of the

centre on 7 December, 1999.

The more detailed analysis included specific views on the teaching of

science and went to the Guardian, coinciding with the 30th anniversary

of the Apollo 13 mission in April 2000. A competition was also run in

the Guardian to provide one school with the opportunity of taking a

class of children to the centre.

A series of joint initiatives between local football clubs and

newspapers were organised for December and January. Children were asked

to write to the newspaper with a request to become an astronaut. The

most creative would win a trip for their class to the centre. Once their

’mission’ was complete, they received a certificate from local

footballers. The Derby Evening Telegraph, Nottingham Eve-ning Post and

Leicester Mercury signed up to take part.

The BBC’s Blue Peter was also approached with a series of competition

ideas for children, including designing a ’space mission’ badge.

Measurement and Evaluation

Coverage was achieved on BBC Breakfast and the Six O’Clock News with BBC

science correspondent Sue Nelson, who took part in a ’mission’ with a

local school. Radio 5 also covered the opening. The Guardian devoted

three pages to the story. Children’s quotes taken from the research

findings were reproduced with the more serious statistics.

The Derby Evening Telegraph gave the joint initiative with Derby County

Football Club two features, before and after the competition. The

Nottingham Evening Post is set to run the competition in May 2000 and

the Leicester Mercury in the summer of 2000. Blue Peter is also planning

to film at the centre.


The campaign managed to successfully communicate to a national and

regional audience that the Challenger Learning Centre educates children

about science - a subject that they may think they will find ’boring’ -

in an entertaining, yet informative way.

The centre has had a massive demand from schools and is booked up for

the duration of the academic year.

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