Tom Lyons

Tom Lyons

ESERO-UK Teacher Fellow, working for STEM Learning, York. Using the context of space to inspire STEM teaching and learning. Teacher of physics, satellite engineer, father of two.

Location York


  • Hi Jahan. I think you are right that it would be good for them to also see more recent data.

  • Hi everyone. I will be joining you over the next few weeks as an Educator on this course, along with Catherine Daly. I am the STEM Enrichment Lead, at STEM Learning. My role includes leading on the educational content for ESERO-UK, STEM Clubs and other competitions and challenges. I look forward to reading your comments and supporting on this course.

  • Hi David. I agree that it is best to try to understand and examine the arguments from different stand points. Since there are so many variables influencing climate, and so many arguments, it makes it a complex matter and you could write another whole course about it.

  • Hi Ron. You are right that making a direct causal link between extreme weather events and climate is not trivial. However, in another IPCC report they state " Collectively, these studies show that the role of climate change in the ocean and cryosphere extreme events is...

  • So that I could add an image, I've posted a reply in the carbon cycle padlet

  • Yes - except for islands of rubbish :) All land is really just the parts that poke up above sea level and that is changing all the time with rising sea levels but also with tectonic and volcanic activity.

  • Hi. I'm Tom, one of the Educators on the course. I'm the STEM Enrichment Lead at STEM Learning, and ESERO-UK Teacher Fellow. I'm really looking forward to supporting you through this course, over the coming weeks.

  • Hi. Good point on the updates to the space suits, Karen and Nick.

  • @MelisHunt These activities from the IOP are worth a look I've also written a resource for the European Space Agency, which is yet to be published, which uses a torch in a shoe box to look at the transit method of detecting exoplanets. More resources are available via

  • Hi everyone, and welcome to the course. Adam and I look forward to reading your comments over the next few weeks. I think practical work allows students to connect the theory with what happens in practice and makes it tangible for them. It can also gives students a great sense of achievement when they successfully carry out an experiment.

  • How do planets stay in their orbits? This question seems to be coming up quite a bit. We know gravity is the force that enables this to happen but here's a couple of ways of thinking about it. One model for this is to swing a mass (e.g. a lump of plasticine) on the end of a piece of string. The tension in the string is like the force of gravity and as long...

  • Hi Leah. It is a question that comes up quite a bit - why spend money on space when we need to concentrate on our own planet? There's a few things that we can say in favour of space exploration: firstly, we actually spend very little on it compared to other things - the money spent on all space activities amounts to less than the cost of one cinema ticket...

  • Hi Chloé. There was a problem with the link but I think you should be able to view it now.

  • Hi Tina. You're quite right - this course was written before the pandemic. Hopefully once things are close to normal again then you will be able to test it out.

  • Hi Gillian. Gas giants are not all that gassy when you get further towards their cores, the pressure is so high that they are solid.

  • Hi Carly. If you look at the Mission to the Moon resource linked to in the next step - it includes details about this.

  • Stellarium is a great tool to use and can be useful in dealing with misconceptions.

  • Hi Carly. This sounds interesting. Let us know if you have a go at this.

  • Hi everyone - welcome to the course. It's great to see that we have some keen learners already commenting. We really like to read your comments and questions - so keep them coming over the next few weeks.

  • Hi Sajid. This is a bit out of scope of the course but these links give some good examples and

  • Hi Jeremy. You can use it if there is a classroom below you since the radiation is attenuated enough that the exposure will be very low. The risk is higher in terms of the location of the storage of the sources, since they will only be out in the lab for a short period of time. If you are in England than CLEAPSS guidance L93 is the correct document to...

  • Hi Tom. Yes - should be divided by 5.

  • Hi Tom. Strange that the banana gave you a value that high - it should only be just above background count levels.

  • Hi everyone. It's good to read all your comments to this post. Please feel free to ask questions along the way, or at the Q&A section towards the end of this course.

  • Hi Melody, welcome to the course. In the section of the course about radiation we show how you can use everyday items like low sodium salt as a weak emitter, if you can't get access to standard radioactive sources.

  • Hello, and welcome to the course. Please ask if you have any questions throughout. We really welcome your ideas and comments so don't forget to post and interact with one another along the way.

  • Hi Petra,
    There are also a few challenges and competitions from ESA - the dates are all listed on this post

  • @PetraPikula Yes - there are lots of other suns like our own but also much bigger ones and smaller ones - stars come in a huge range of sizes. There is a boundary, called the heliopause which will change depending on the size and luminosity of the star. We have evidence of water channels on Mars - so we think it is highly likely that water flowed on the...

  • Hi Petra. Scientists think there are billions of solar systems out there. The closest solar system from our own in Proxima Centauri B, which is 4.25 light years away - it would take thousands of years for us to get there with current technology. The boundaries of a solar system can be defined in different ways but essentially it includes any object that...

  • Hi Zoe,
    Have you tried advertising through STEM Ambassadors Also, there may be opportunities through Techniquest.

  • Sounds like a great lesson!

  • Hi Petra, The activity we have in the Mission to the Moon resource uses sand, water and some glue to make lunar bricks. You could also use junk modelling (e.g. waste cardboard boxes and bottles).

  • @JuliusBanda Unfortunately, it's the classic thing about physics equipment - especially with circuits! It's great that you feel better about this now.

  • @AnithaBhat There really is a wealth of resources of the website. This might be a good place to start

  • @PennyMaynard Really good to hear that. Thanks for your contributions throughout.

  • I think this is a journey we all take for different subjects. Often, it's not until you have been teaching something for a while, and get a deeper understanding of the subject, that you start making changes to the narrative.

  • @AnithaBhat @NaomiRozier @JoseMariaDiazFuentes I also used to do the stairs activity with the students. We also converted to the old units of horse power to see if any of the students could get close to 1 hp.

  • @TeresaBurrell You're right that models do have their limitations - especially with electricity. Talking through the pros and cons of various models with the students can help.

  • If we can also link what we are teaching to careers, then this supports the take-up of STEM subjects (see the ASPIRES study "– Embedded models of careers education (in which curriculum learning is systematically linked to a wide range of real life careers and applications) have been found to be effective in raising student engagement and attainment")

  • @KeithClarke I like the Christmas lights example - with the LED string lights it actually lets you demonstrate both series and parallel since they are often connected in groups (see - you will need to snip them off but you could always solder a switch in where you removed the LED so you can...

  • Hi everyone. I'm looking forward to reading your posts, and together with Adam, supporting you through the next three weeks.

  • You could try the rope analogy. The rope represents a chain of free electrons in a wire. You have a loop of rope which two students are feeding through their hands in one direction - they are the cells of the battery. A few other students are spaced out holding the rest of the rope loosely - initially acting as low value resistors. If the "cell" students...

  • Water is a great thing to talk about with Spec Heat Capacity. It has an unusually high value for a liquid - you could discuss in class how the Earth would be effected if it's value was a lot lower. What might happen to the sea in winter?

  • That sounds like a great idea. It does take time to build in context that is relevant to students but evidence seems to show that it is valuable for them

  • I do prefer potential difference but I also think students need to understand that we can use either term.

  • Hello to everyone. Thank you for joining the course. We look forward to reading and responding to your comments over the coming weeks.

  • I would agree with using DMMs and variable power supplies where available.

  • @BobBrown Some interesting points here. I had never really thought about students thinking that the wires may be different. It certainly would be worth a quick discussion in class.

  • There are some excellent tips here. Preparation is key in terms of the equipment and I like the idea from Melvin about building the circuit in front of the children and maybe making some deliberate mistakes so that they can see the pitfalls. I would also say, that if some groups are having problems it is worth asking them to have a look at one of the groups...

  • Hi David,
    Yes - I became aware of this a few years ago but never seem to have the time to try it out! A simple guide for teachers might be useful, if anyone wanted to write one...

  • @Ann-MarieBrown Good to see that the comments enabled you to think more about how you would approach this. I like Kath's idea about the dye making the water ripples easier to see. You could also try using offset motors to build several ripple tanks so that they are all able to have a go in groups.

  • @KathKynaston Hi Kath. We've found that if your paper is wide enough (a role of cheap wallpaper works nicely) then you don't really get much sand on the floor. The advantage it has over using an oscilloscope it that you can see how changing the wave speed effects the wavelength (with constant frequency). It is also good for A-level, as it links SHM to waves.

  • There are some really good comments here. It's interesting that so many of you are highlighting that practical skills are underdeveloped before GCSE. Could this be because of a reluctance of teachers to let students to use glassware, Bunsen burners, chemicals etc. as it makes classroom management more difficult? I think there is definitely something to be...

  • Hi Melvin,
    You are right that you can't just ask students to do nothing for 5 minutes but they can be making a table for their results, making predictions, discussing questions around the topic etc.

  • Hi Kath,
    I like the idea of getting students to think about why ships made from metal will float. It could be interesting to make boats from aluminium foil to see them float and then scrunch them up and see them sink. Then you could move on to measuring the volume of water displaced by the boat and that displaced by the scrunched up lump.

  • Hi Christopher,
    I think it is important that they understand that they are learning about ultrasound so that they get used to the vocabulary and, as you say, they can apply it to different contexts.

  • Hi Leslie - see my pinned post in this section for how one group of researchers used a physical example of this

  • Here is an article about how some researchers did this in a controlled environment.
    It's a bit of a read, but essentially they set up a reflective surface 1 or 2 metres for the participant and played a series of clicks (or made clicks with their mouths). The participants were...

  • Hi David - Sorry for the late reply - there is no problem putting these on USB as long as you are just using them in school and not distributing them @DavidFerguson

  • Hi Laura. I think Claire is referring to the research that shows that there is a lack of evidence for learning styles (e.g. and...

  • Hi Janet. This my favourite resource for teaching particle physics

  • Hi Iain - I've managed to find another paper, where we can view more than just the abstract . If you look at part 12 of this it talks about 0.4 Sv per year, which would be 400,000 microSv. It's interesting that we don't hear more about this. I just had a quick look at radiation exposure on the Apollo missions...

  • The jelly baby wave machine is one of the most popular videos on our site - and also very tasty!

  • Hi. Yes, you may only be able to read the abstracts without paying. It is not essential reading. However, libraries will often have subscriptions to these journals, so you could access them from there.

  • Hi Asuquo. This is a tricky practical to do without a strong beta or gamma emitter and a GM tube. There are virtual simulations such as - but this one does not have a function for changing the distance from the source. Let us know if you find any that work well for you.

  • Hi Richard. You are right that it is difficult to always include context, and I think it is not something you can do for every lesson overnight. I would include bits here and there and try to plan with your colleagues, if possible. Over time you may be able to build up a number of examples that you can use.

  • Hi Iain. After looking at your links, I've had a look myself and you got me thinking. The study shows the dose per day and then multiplies that by 365 days in the year (and then multiplies by Sievert dose factor). However, I do not think they take into account the cumulative effect - Pb 210 half-life is 22 years so if the lead stays in your lungs then over,...