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Beat the January blues - things to be excited about in 2016

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I don’t like New Year. All that pressure and hootenanny-fuelled hype, just for an evening of morbid reflection and over-priced taxis. We all enjoy a firework or two, but why all the crowds and social media bragging about how much enforced fun we’re having?

Then there’s barely time to get Auld Lang Syne out of our heads before we’re flung back into the daily grind, except now with the expectation that we will be better at it than we were before because it is a new year and we must therefore have transformed overnight into self-disciplined human beings with an immunity to indulgence and a hankering for lettuce.

I suspect the whole thing is a wicked joke, likely orchestrated by Jools Holland in cahoots with taxi drivers.

Fortunately that nonsense is now behind us, and we can crack on with 2016. You’ll be pleased to hear that there is plenty to look forward to. To help keep those January blues at bay, here are just three of the things I'm excited about this year.

400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death - April 23

The 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death will be marked nationwide by a range of events, exhibitions, performances and publications to celebrate the works of the world’s most famous playwright.

To note but a few, Shakespeare’s Globe is paying tribute to the occasion through the ‘Complete Walk’, a journey through 37 plays along the banks of the Thames, and Globe Education’s '1616: A Momentous Year' project for schools and families.

Shakespeare Week, set up by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, provides registered primary schools with resources and ideas to help them get involved in celebrations within their areas (registration and access to the resources is free).

Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon will also be busy with pupil-friendly fun, and there are numerous productions of Shakespeare's plays taking place across the country.

There’s something to suit everyone (and tick all the spiritual, moral, social and cultural boxes into the bargain).

A Briton on the International Space Station - until 5 June

Major Tim Peake drew our attention back to space in December when he became the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station (ISS), where he will be working until June 2016.

On Friday 8 January, pupils at Sandringham School spoke to Tim via radio call from Hertfordshire while the ISS passed overhead. The headteacher, Alan Gray, told the BBC that the ‘extraordinary experience’ is an example of what space has to offer young people.

Tim and his colleagues are an inspiration to young scientists, but also to those of us whose career as an astronaut is a little less likely. As radio and the internet bring us closer to everyday space activity than ever before, Tim’s few months in space promise to be an exciting time for everyone.

The ISS website and Tim’s Twitter feed @astro_timpeake are full of fascinating insights into life on the space station. It is also possible to track the position of the ISS in real time and view the earth from Tim’s perspective via the official ISS Instagram page.

Rio 2016 - August-September

In August, 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will meet in Rio de Janeiro for the 27th Summer Olympic Games. A further 4,350 athletes will take part in the Paralympic Games in September. The whole thing will apparently require 70,000 volunteers, 31,720 tennis balls, and 60,000 coat hangers. It’s quite a big deal.

I didn’t expect to get sucked into the 2012 Olympics. But there’s something highly infectious – and also powerful – about bringing so many people from so many places together to play games. I always imagined it as something for sporty people, but I underestimated just how invested one can become in a game without having the faintest clue what the rules are.

This makes it very easy to bring the excitement of Rio 2016 into the classroom. With 65 different sports contests, enormous ceremonies, a culturally and historically rich setting and more examples of strong character than one can shake a stick at, there is something to appeal to all types of pupils across all subject areas.

And once you’ve made the most of all that in school, you can enjoy the actual Olympics in the peace and quiet of your summer holiday. Excellent.


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