By Susan of Wardrobe
In March, my class and I went on a weekend long fieldtrip to La Ferme des etoiles which is in a town called Gers, 2 hours away from Toulouse. It was one of my favourite weeks in my life. It was fantastic!
After packing and saying goodbye to my family, we started a long bus ride to the heart of Gers. It was alright, I had my friends to talk to and after numerous games of chess, we finally got there. The view was fantastic. Rolling plains, waterfalls, and old beautiful stone buildings.
Once we were all finally settled in our dorms, we ate lunch in the canteen and had a little recess. Then, we had our first astronomy class. My teacher, Joachim, began to ask us questions and started to teach us about the Solar system. He taught us that there are eight planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and, Neptune. The planets all circle the sun, which is a star, but not at the same pace. You know, the basic stuff. After two hours of that, we got a break and had class soon after.
He took us outside to some telescopes and showed us the power of the sun. Joachim took a picture of an eye drawn on it and put it in front of one of the telescopes. Amazingly the paper began to sizzle and a burnt a hole through the paper. I thought that was scary because what if you didn’t know and looked into the telescope by accident? You could have lost your eye. He then handed out special glasses which we looked at the sun with. I thought that was amazing because you could see the small eruptions on the surface of the sun which was a bright orange.
That first day was a warm welcome to outer space, but I couldn’t wait until that night.
The teacher and supervisors brought us out onto a big soccer field in the dim light of the lamps around the buildings. The sky was magnificent! I could see all the stars, nebulas and planets. Joachim pointed out everything with his laser. He even started teaching us about the constellations.That night he even took out a special telescope. I saw my first nebula! It was beautiful! All the colours and little dots of lights, knowing that all of the light I’m seeing left those stars hundreds, even probably millions of light years ago. That night was surely one of the most magical nights ever, seeing everything for the first time.
The next morning after a rough night of barely sleeping and the shock of being away for so long, I had a good full breakfast which made me feel better. We had another session of class this time, it was the constellations. My favourite one is the constellation of the geminis. Of course because it’s my zodiac sign and because I like the story of the half brothers. Joachim has a special program on his computer that he showed us that shows the constellations in the past and future. It even draws the picture in the night sky of what the constellations are imagined to look like.
After a full class and lunch, we went into town to a culture museum. We were split into two groups and the first group went into the museum, the second group and I went into a small planetarium. When we entered, it was pitch dark. All you could hear were the whispers of my classmates and the scuttling of feet as we all searched for seats. Once we were all seated, with a flick of a switch our teacher turned on the stars. I know that sentence sounds weird but it’s true. He made the stars appear in the sea of dark. I saw the milky way and looked for the North star. Joachim began showing us the different constellations. Most of them I recognized, but there were a few new ones like the Scorpion and the Serpens. He explained how the Greeks imagined pictures in the sky of their beliefs, their gods and their stories. It all looked so real, but my favourite part was when he would change seasons. The sky would shift and you would feel as if you’re spinning in space. I imagined this is what it would be like on a night one hundred years ago when I could see everything. Today, because of pollution, the stars become occluded from our view.
After about 45 minutes of the stars and planets, we exited the planetarium and entered the museum. It was really neat to see how men lived a century ago, but it would be hard to live like that.
After the museum, we hiked down the hills and fields to La Ferme des etoiles. It was a tiring walk and I was looking forward to dinner. Afterwards, we got to play outside for an hour or so and were sent to bed after a shower.
We all were woken up early because we were going to La Cité de l’espace, a huge space museum in Toulouse. The drive was a long 2 hours and after staring out the window wondering when we would get there, I saw the tip of a spaceship and knew we were arriving.
I approached the a building with wonder, then the teacher directed us into a big garden. There, I saw the huge spaceship I saw from the bus. Ariane 5 was its name. Of course it wasn’t real, but only a life sized model. In the garden there were many different things: a model of a satellite, a picture light year ladder into space and a maze. After an hour of going around and taught about the space models, we went into an actual space station. It was tiny and everything was packed in so tightly, but it was amazing! My favourite part was the shower. It was a tiny capsule with a little window on it. Of course in space ships or space stations you shouldn’t have liquids because it would float around and wreck the controls or something, so the shower was really complicated. You technically had a little hand sponge on which had a few drops of water. You would then rub that on your body with a little soap and then try to rinse and wipe yourself dry. I didn’t see how all that was possible in a little cubicle like that, which is why I was amazed.
After Joachim explained how everything functioned, we left for an Imax show. It was about a space camera called HUBBLE and how a crew of people risked their lives to save a camera. They did fix it, but the most interesting parts were how they lived in the space station.
When the show finished, we had to wait for the planetarium so we went to the kids’ center. It was underneath Ariane 5’s model. There were different games like: build then launch a rocket which was fun when you watched it go into outer space; watch the constellations which had a projector that told you a story about the legends; and how light would you be if you were on the moon? which I could never guess.
Afterwards, we walked to the planetarium and watched an amazing film about the different stars, and what happens when the seasons change, the sun and the planets. That, was my favourite part. They did it really well actually. It was awesome!
We then walked to a room to have lunch then shopped at the gift store. I got a little snow globe for Edmund, a beautiful drawing book for Lucy that has stars and nebulas on it, a keychain with the names and pictures of the planets for Peter and my parents. Of course I wanted something small so I got myself a couple postcards and a nice bookmark.
My class and I then got to see an exhibition on Mars. We got to see real working rovers and about what type of facts humans know about Mars. I think if I could pick a planet Mars would be my favourite on because there could be aliens there. There are many pictures that I saw that might prove something, maybe there’s life. Even a simple bacteria would be an alien. We think of aliens with green skin, possibly more than two eyes and arms and legs, but really any kind of life would practically be an alien.
At about around 6 o’clock we started for the Farm. After a supper and delicious dessert, we went to check out the stars. That night was my favourite night ever! I saw most of the planets. You can see Mars which is a little red dot without a microscope. The most beautiful one was Saturn. With it’s huge ring around it, it was incredible!
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep and breakfast, we went to the garden. Joachim took out eight little capsule thingies with little beads or marbles that represented each planet. He also had a tennis ball which represented the sun. We spent about an hour placing them in order for it to be like the solar system. I know when you take a look at picture of the Solar System they look close together but actually they weren’t AT ALL, well at least not the gas planets anyway.
We spent the rest of the morning in class making rockets. It was so fun! We took these cardboard tubes and cut and carved the fins, nozzles and then got to paint it. Mine was named Canada 10. I had an allergic reaction from all the dust though, and I was a little stuffed up for the rest of the day which was totally worth it. My creation was stunning!
That afternoon, we put little powder powered engines and parachute into our rockets and launched them. There were two types of motors: type A and B. I picked B which was stronger but had less chance of getting your rocket back. Sadly, I lost mine when it veered into the forest, but it was still cool to see it fly. It went soooo high!
After searching for our rockets for some time, we went to play in the meadow which over looked the basketball court. While the boys were playing soccer, us girls were making crowns out of flowers, singing, dancing and rolling down the side of the hill. I even played soccer for a while but once I realized I wasn’t so good at it, I took a break and played with my friends.
We looked at the stars that night again to refresh our memories and soon afterwards slept.
Again, we woke up and ate breakfast. I was really looking forward to that day because that night there would be the BOUM. The boom is a weekend party with music, dancing, candy and pop. We pretty much spent that whole day in class just finishing things off. The day passed quickly and soon enough it was time to get ready for the boom. We all did our hair and makeup. We dressed up and ate supper and were led to a room with a disco ball and lights.
That evening was the best evening ever! I danced my heart out. Of course kids my age, we like to party, so it was crazy in there. The wildest party I’d ever been to. After a tiring 2 hours, we stopped and had a choice: Go to bed or see the stars for the last time. I was bagged but went to see the universe for the very last time.
I cherished that moment. The times I looked up ay the stars and planets. I’ll never forget that feeling. A feeling mixed with curiosity, longing and sleepiness… (:
That morning we headed back to school, to go back home. I was thrilled to share my stories and give the souvenirs.
That weekend was the most amazing week ever. I learned so much. Things I thought that could never be possible. It was a relaxing week. I’d never been away from my family for so long and missed them so much, but I think I could do that whole week again. Maybe I will, because I really do hope so!