Last week we launched the Ordered Universe – OxNet North-East programme for 2018-19. Using the wonderful setting of St Peter’s Church, Sunderland, appropriate for the occasion given its connections to Bede and early medieval scientific thought, we introduced the project and the OxNet programme to about 100 school students, teachers and parents. Dating back to the 670s, St Peter’s, at the mouth of the Wear, formed part of the double monastery of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow. Bede spent his early years at Monkwearmouth, born on the estates of the monastery and spending the rest of life there and at Jarrow.
After a tour of the church, we divided into three groups. Brian Tanner and Sarah Gilbert led a session of medieval and modern astronomy, focusing on comets challenging the students to think their way through ancient and medieval views on the subject. In a similar way Giles Gasper and Jamies Irvine used the Hereford World Map, from the late-thirteenth century as a way to enter the medieval mind and the rather different attitudes towards geography and cosmology. Both sessions were very stimulating, and were intended as tasters of the sort of variety of subjects and our collaborative approach. The sessions were complemented by one for parents, demystifying university application, led by Peter Claus.
A final session featured Peter Claus on the OxNet initiative and its philosophy, Sammy Wright Vice-Principal of Southmoor Academy, three students who had taken the course over the last two years, and then Giles wrapped up with a presentation on Ordered Universe. Moving from Bede to Grosseteste, maps to the cosmos, with astronomy, comets, and interdisciplinary research we hope that that we gave an insight into university life and learning.
To apply for the course please visit: www.ox-net.org/apply_sunderland – the deadline for expressions of interest is 10th December. Please do spread the word – it is one of the high-points of the year for project members. We always learn a lot from the student comments and engagement, the course is demanding but rewarding as a result, and brings you into the heart of a dynamic research project.