On March 13, 2018, Professor Stephen Hawking passed away, leaving behind a legacy which transformed the way humans think about the universe.
The death of Professor Stephen Hawking last week has once again brought to the fore the amazing contributions of his life in science, as well as highlighting the power of a positive outlook and an unwavering growth mindset. Here at Teach Starter, we wanted to honour his legacy in the best way we know how – by helping you guys to introduce your students to Stephen Hawking and engage in some classroom activities that reflect the kind of creative thinking and growth mindset that was characteristic of this inspirational man!
Why Students Should Learn About Stephen Hawking, Master of the Universe.
As a scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking came to be known as the ‘Master of the Universe’; a lofty title indeed! His work in astrophysics and cosmology challenged and expanded human understanding of the universe more than most any other scientist in his lifetime. Hawking continued to work on his theories right up until his death at age 76.
While Stephen Hawking’s work within theories of relativity and quantum mechanics may not be topics suitable for most your primary students, everyone (kids included) can be inspired by how his curious mind never stopped wondering, never stopped exploring and never stopped trying to figure out just how and why the universe exists as it does.
With this in mind, we have created a fun, space-inspired design activity for your lower years students. The task asks students to design and build a spacecraft that will take an alien safely back to his home.
Aliens, you say? Where’s the science in that!? Well, Professor Stephen Hawking famously stated that for humans to assume we are alone in the universe is “completely implausible and arrogant”.
“”Considering the number of planets and stars that we know exist, it’s extremely unlikely that we are the only form of evolved life.” (Stephen Hawking)
Inspiring Curiosity and Growth Mindset
Alongside Hawking’s work, it is where his globally acknowledged achievements in the sciences intersect with his personal life, living with disability, that wonderful inspiration can also be drawn.
Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with a rare, early-onset, slow progressing form of motor neuron disease when he was just 21. Motor neuron disease (MND), or Almyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) affects the nerve cells (neurons) that help us to move, speak, breath and swallow. These neurons slowly die, causing muscles to weaken and waste. Many people living with MND are wheelchair users, as Stephen Hawking was. When MND began to effect his ability to speak, Professor Stephen Hawking used augmented alternative communication (AAC) devices in order to communicate the workings of his brilliant mind.
Professor Stephen Hawking continued to work on theories of the universe, to publish books and to present his theories and ideas to the world, while living with disability.
“… he quickly became somewhat of a cult figure, featuring on popular TV shows ranging from the Simpsons to The Big Bang Theory. This was probably because the concept of an imprisoned mind roaming the cosmos plainly grabbed people’s imagination.” (Professor Martin Rees, The Conversation)
This wonderful Stephen Hawking inspired, visual arts activity allows students to express their curiosity and creative mind in a fun and engaging way.
- Students familiarise themselves with the profile of Professor Stephen Hawking. This could be done individually, in small groups, or as a teacher-led discussion.
- After considering the following quote, students create a self-portrait that represents their own curiosity and their creativity.
““Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” (Professor Stephen Hawking)
The resulting self-portraits so wonderfully celebrate the limitless nature of the human mind.
Stephen Hawking Inspired Teaching Resources
We hope these ideas have sparked your own imagination too! Each of the teaching resources, inspired by Stephen Hawking, that are featured in this post can be downloaded for free. Simply follow these links:
- Stephen Hawking Quote Poster Pack
- Stephen Hawking Profile Poster
- Spacecraft Design Task
- ‘My Curious Mind’ Growth Mindset Art Activity