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A Meteor Struck the Grounds of a School in Northern Ireland (Or Did It?)

Strange things were afoot at Castle Gardens Primary School.

When the children of Castle Gardens Primary School, in County Down, Northern Ireland, came traipsing to school on Monday morning, they found a scene of devastation in the playground. Trees were wrecked. Asphalt was torn up. The police service were on hand, in emergency-response mode. There, in the middle of the yard, was a smoking bundle from outer space: a meteorite.

Except—there wasn’t, not really. Parents, staff, and a local paving business had spent the weekend staging the extraterrestrial occurrence. The paving company tore up the ground and provided the boulder that stood in for the space rock. The trees were bent not by a rocketing lump of granite, but by winds from Storm Ophelia. And the police were in on the gag. This false strike, the BBC reported, was an educational exercise, designed to teach the children about space and distract them from the stress and anxiety of their exams, which are taken at the end of elementary school.

The children were tasked with documenting the strike, armed with iPads and notebooks, pencils and blog posts. A local newspaper, the Newtownards Chronicle, organized a workshop to teach them how to write an effective news report. “It gives the children the chance to experience and imagine an event they’d otherwise only see on video clips or photographs,” the principal, John Gray, told the BBC. Budgets might have been cut, he said, but their dedication to education was undimmed. “With so many negative stories about education budgets, this is an example of the lengths that some schools and their local communities go to to ensure the best learning opportunities to children.”