If you met an extraterrestrial, what would you ask?
Christer Fuglesang’s children’s books about Markus, Mariana and Uncle Albert aim to inspire and educate children and improve their scientific understanding. To coincide with the launch of the third book, Vattenvärlden, the author and his publisher, Fri Tanke Förlag, wanted to create an opportunity for children to discover the delights of real science.
To launch Vattenvärlden in a way that made it possible for teachers and parents to discuss science with children. This would clearly highlight Fuglesang’s mission to awaken a passion for the sciences in Sweden’s children.
Teachers often struggle to find exciting ways to get children interested in real science rather than fairytales. As children, we’re very open to influence and it’s important to draw a clear distinction between scientific fact and myths about the universe. The purpose of the books about Markus, Mariana and Uncle Albert is to inspire a passion for real science in both children and adults. With the launch of the third book in the series, the author wanted to engage teachers and pupils in a campaign that would bring the purpose of the books to life. The essence of the campaign was to promote the third book, Vattenvärlden, in the media and provide Fuglesang with an opportunity to get Swedish schoolchildren interested in science.
Science is all about being inquisitive, exploring and asking questions. The strategy was for the whole campaign to be driven by a single question: “If you met an extraterrestrial, what would you ask?”
Launching the campaign via a website and connecting to social platforms such as Instagram, we created an opportunity for children, parents and teachers across Sweden to participate using an interface that was both accessible and familiar. To make the adventure even more real, a partnership was established with the Swedish Space Corporation (SCC), who would send all the questions out into space. This created an incentive for strong engagement.
We created pratamedrymden.se – a website that provided an opportunity to (possibly) talk to lifeforms in the far reaches of outer space. All the questions were collected and displayed on the site. Sweden’s only astronaut, and the author of the book, Christer Fuglesang, was presented as the sender, encouraging people old and young to put their questions to space and any extraterrestrials. Questions would then be collated and beamed out by Fuglesang and the SSC. The pupil who asked the best question won a class visit from Fuglesang, and via direct contact with the Space Corporation, they sent the package of questions into space.
There were two stages to the activation of the campaign, beginning with an extensive press launch, followed by ambassadorship among teachers and pupils who passed the message on.
The campaign achieved enormous coverage. Pratamedrymden.se received over 2,000 questions from schoolchildren across Sweden and the project inspired teachers and pupils to talk about science on a whole new level. The project also enabled Fuglesang to spend a long time featured in both the national and local media, from the daily press and magazines to TV and radio programmes. In total, the campaign reached 15,041,316 people, almost twice the Swedish population. In addition, the series of books about Markus and Mariana saw a 200% increase in sales over the course of the campaign (October–December 2012).
The children in the winning class at Lögareberg Montessori School in Stockholm were there to witness their questions and those of the rest of Sweden being sent from Esrange in Kiruna into outer space, to perhaps reach beyond our wildest imagination. Because who knows? One day we might receive an answer…