Pupils are the stars in Dark Sky Reserve news

Budding reporters from the Penlan comprehensive paid a visit to the National Park Visitor Centre near Libanus on Tuesday, March 12th to produce a BBC News School Report on Bannau Brycheiniog National Park becoming the world’s fifth International Dark Sky Reserve.

Seven Year 9 pupils took part in an evening of stargazing before interviewing members of Bannau Brycheiniog Park Society and Usk Astronomical Society about the importance of the special designation.

The students were taking part in the BBC News School Report project, an annual event broadcast on March 21st.  The initiative aims to encourage secondary school pupils to develop journalistic skills and take an interest in local issues that affect them. Pupils from around the UK participate in the School Report, with the best features being used across the BBC network on TV, radio and online 

Jim Wilson, Chairman of Bannau Brycheiniog Park Society, said: “It was great to work with the pupils of Brecon High School and the BBC on this project, and it was fantastic to see so many young people taking an interest in the International Dark Sky Reserve. The pupils did a great job with the interviews, and I hope their hard work encourages other young people to come and explore the internationally recognised dark skies above Bannau Brycheiniog National Park.”

David Thomas, President of Usk Astronomical Society, said: “We had an excellent night for observing with dark, clear skies, and the enthusiasm of the youngsters was really heartening for a group like ours.

“We managed to see Jupiter and some of its moons, Orion, which is coming to the end of its observing season, and we observed stars being born in the Orion nebula and baby stars in Pleiades, which impressed the pupils.”

Activities at the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority-owned National Park Visitor Centre had been preceded by a special Dark Skies lesson at Brecon High School. The National Park’s Education Officer Eleanor Flaherty visited the school on Monday, March 11th to tell pupils about the effects of light pollution and the impact it can have on birds and animals, as well as the costs of street lighting.

The visit was part of the National Park Authority Education Team’s outreach programme to educate children about the Bannau Brycheiniog Dark Sky Reserve. So far the programme has been rolled out to eight schools and has seen Education Officers work with over 400 children. Educating children in the local community about the importance of dark skies as a link to our past and future, as well as the conservation of wildlife, formed an important part of the application to the International Dark-Sky Association in the USA.

Former BBC Wales reporter and Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority Member Mrs Melanie Doel, said: “Coverage of the National Park’s new Dark Sky Reserve status has reached every corner of the globe, but it is really encouraging to know that children here in the National Park are taking such interest and pride in this fantastic news. Having been involved previously with the BBC News School Report project I look forward to seeing the pupil’s report later this month.”

The Bannau Brycheiniog Dark Skies project is a partnership between Bannau Brycheiniog Park Society and Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority, working in collaboration with the University of Glamorgan, Dark Sky Wales and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. The project was made possible thanks to generous funding from the Bannau Brycheiniog Trust, Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund and initial seed funding from the Bannau Brycheiniog Park Society.

For more information about the National Park Authority’s Education Team please contact 01874 620463.

For further details about light pollution or the Bannau Brycheiniog Dark Skies project, please visit www.breconbeacons.org/darkskies or www.breconbeaconsparksociety/national-park/dark-skies.