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
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.