A Journey to the Planets: Europlanet Funding Scheme 2022 Winner

A Journey to the Planets: how to make children fall in love with space

Making children curious about space and planetary sciences through play and puppet theatre is the idea conceived and developed by Katia Pinheiro and the team of “Journey to the Planets“, the winning proposal of this year’s Europlanet Funding scheme for public engagement.

The project will start by producing a series of short movies with stories about the planets told by Bimbim’s team, an original and funny puppet theatre. The videos will come with illustrations and animations to better express the scientific content which, for now, will focus on a general overview of all Solar System planets, the Earth and Mars.

The promise is that more will come, thanks to the support and work of many researchers from Germany, Macedonia, India, Argentina, UK, and the producer and the theatre companies from Brazil. Reflecting the international nature of the project, the videos will be translated into several languages (initially Portuguese, English and French), in hopes of reaching an international scale. 

Federica Duras interviewed the project leader Katia Pinheiro, who nurtures a passion for science outreach, especially directed to children. This project is an opportunity to pursue her dream to combine the two.

Katia, where does “Journey to the Planets” come from? What’s the trigger behind it?
I want to transmit science to children. Initiating children into scientific subjects is not a trivial task. I thought about a way to attract their attention and a way to encourage their critical thinking and active participation. Puppet theatre seemed to be a good idea since puppets have the power to fascinate children. Charismatic characters as interlocutors may talk about science in an unconventional and fun way. The strategy to combine science and art may be a powerful way to awaken children’s
curiosity about planetary sciences.

Katia Pinheiro and her dog Jobim

Why Bimbim? What is that?
Bimbim is the nickname for Jobim, who was a famous composer of Brazilian music. I gave his name to a smart and funny small dog some years ago. This little dog was very charismatic and liked to “talk” to everybody around him, especially children. He is the inspiration for the protagonist of the stories: courageous, curious and fun!

How many people are involved in the creation and subsequent implementation of
the project?

There are 15 people involved in the different parts of the project: story writing, production, filming, puppet manipulation, dubbing and animation. This project brings together artists and scientists from different parts of the world working on various research areas. All the co-applicants of this project are female professionals of arts and science. The scientific co-applicants will participate with ideas and scientific content for the stories. The theatre company “Papa Vento” is involved in the artistic part and they will manipulate the puppets. An audiovisual director and producer will capture the images in the best way to tell the stories.

What is the near future of the project?
We will produce short movies with three stories about the planets: a general overview of all solar system planets, Earth and Mars. The release of the movies will be in January, 2023. We expect that these stories will also call the attention of schools and parents to bring science closer to their children. Another project outcome is the large involvement of female scientists and thus the possibility of attracting children from under-represented groups to become scientists. Our target audience is primarily school students between the ages of 2 and 8 years old but it also involves the audience of educators. The plan is to share the videos with many schools and social media channels across Europe and other countries worldwide.

An example of visual from the story “Journey to the center of the Earth”

What do you expect from Europlanet as a link for the project?
Europlanet is a very important link for starting the first science story of “Bimbim’s team”. The support of Europlanet for outreach and education projects promotes new initiatives and, in the case of this project, tackles the challenge of reaching as many children as possible and awakening their curiosity for planetary sciences. The dissemination of the puppet videos by Europlanet will encourage more scientists and organisations to take the step of creating something similar and spreading the word. In addition, the commitment of Europlanet to equality, diversity and inclusivity perfectly matches the intentions of this project.

And what about the distant future of “Journey to the planets”? 
We plan to extend these stories to other planets and science topics in the near future. We expect that after these videos are ready, schools and companies may become interested and request presentations in place or other online videos with science stories. New stories coming in the future will be about the deep Earth, ocean, space and others. We believe that once we start this project, new ideas will emerge that will be the seed for next larger projects.

Fingers crossed, we look forward to following the first steps of Bimbim and its friends!
Thanks Katia.

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