Digital Earth Workshops

Online, July 2021 | In partnership with IF: Milton Keynes International Festival 

Teaching and Research Series in Worldviews and Global Challenges  | The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at The Open University 

British artist Luke Jerram has created Gaia – the Earth. This large-scale inflatable sculpture measures seven metres in diameter, and features 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface.

Gaia will be presented in Milton Keynes City Centre this July by Milton Keynes International Festival.

The Open University is presenting a series of digital workshops and an Earth Symposium to accompany the artwork.

Gaia brings focus to global environmental challenges and provides the opportunity to see our planet on a large-scale, floating in three-dimensions and features music and voices including Sir David Attenborough’s.

Read more here:

Watch Gaia here:

If you are a Humanities teacher, please book a place for a KS4 or KS5 student or student group to attend one, two or all three Digital Earth Workshops hosted online by the Open University.   

 The Digital Earth Workshops provide an opportunity for secondary school students in Milton Keynes to be part of exciting online activities and produce digital material, some of which will be digitally showcased around the Gaia installation. Students will actively work online with Open University academics, artists and performers who will engage them in journeys of learning and reflection about our Earth’s history, different worldviews and understandings of our planet and global ecological challenges.  


Tuesday 13 to Thursday 15 July 2021 

The workshops aim to facilitate critical thinking about the role of language, stories, beliefs and representations about the Earth in our valuing of the Earth: 

Workshop 1 | Learn about the Anthropocene through sensory mapping (1.5 hours) 

Atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen coined the term Anthropocene in 2000 as a proposed particular period of time in the Earth’s geological history. The term Anthropocene is now used to refer to the role of human action in influencing the environment and the dangerous environmental conditions that confront us today. The workshop will use an art-based methodology and ‘sensory mapping’ to help students reflect on Earth’s history. 

Workshop 2 | Reflect on Earth stories, experiment with telling a gripping story (1.5 hours 

Students can learn about the role of stories and storytelling in contemporary religious practices that address climate change and the ecological crisis. They will consider the role of religious stories and practices about the Earth in our present valuing of the Earthand also take part in a storytelling circle and sharpen their presentation skills. 

Workshop 3 | Think critically about language and climate change by creating a digital game prototype (1.5 hours) 

Students will consider how climate change is presented by different media sources and discover the power of language by learning about how to do ‘discourse analysis of values and beliefs’ using a simple tool called ‘the Appraisal Framework’. This will help students question and challenge discourses by reimagining the text and the language choices that are made. They will get to experiment with different language choices in a digital game prototype using an interactive text-based digital game platform.  

Participation in the online digital workshops can be followed by a visit organised independently to Luke Jerram’s Gaia at Milton Keynes International Festival which will be hosted in central Milton Keynes between Saturday 10 July to Friday 30 July. This will be subject to Covid-19 regulations at this time.   


  • The workshops will run between Tuesday 13 and Thursday 15 July 2021 
  • Groups of 10 to 35 students can be accommodated for each workshop, and booking all three workshops for a group could take them the entire day (i.e. Workshop 1 ~ 9.00  10.30; Workshop 2 ~ 11.00  12.30 & Workshop 3 ~ 13.30  15.00) 
  • You will receive an instant confirmation email, please keep it at hand, since you can access the link in this email to edit your choices as need it (joining instructions will follow closer to the time) 

Please Note:  

Visit Gaia: A visit to see Gaia is not required to take part in the digital workshops, though Milton Keynes students are likely to be exposed to it during the month of July, when it will be presented in a public, freely accessible space.  

Additional Resources: To support the workshops and the presentation of Gaia in Milton Keynes, there will be a series of discussions and short films available as additional, ongoing online learning resources.

Since 2010, IF: Milton Keynes International Festival has taken place every two years and plays a key role in the cultural development of Milton Keynes.  

Creating unique and memorable experiences, the Festival is designed to encourage people to see a different side to Milton Keynes, presenting a world-class, multi-arts programme which includes new commissions, participatory projects, large-scale/outdoor and family events, concerts, theatre, dance, music and visual arts installations. Events take place in unusual places including parks, public squares, retail spaces, and the online and digital realm.  

The Festival is produced by The Stables and is core funded by Arts Council England and Milton Keynes Council, with support and partnerships across the corporate, educational, charitable and community sectors of Milton Keynes and beyond. 

IF: 2018 highlights film: