MOUNT OLIVE — More than 60 Mount Olive Middle School seventh-grade students recently had the opportunity to travel to the International Space Station, talk with a NASA astronaut, tour Mars and much more all without ever leaving their classroom. This out-of-the-world virtual field trip was made possible through NASA and the Treworgy Planetarium located in Mystic, Conn.
“This field trip was a tremendous help for students to conceptualize the vastness of space,” stated Beth Rose, seventh grade English Language Arts teacher. “Also, students could see first-hand why space exploration is exciting yet comes with a myriad of challenges.”
Students began studying outer space in January as part of their HMH Into Literature unit, titled The Terrors and Wonders of Space. Over several weeks, students learned about Mars, building communities on other planets, challenges of space travel and the NASA Perseverance missions which are designed to search for signs of past and present life on Mars. The virtual field trip, which was grant funded through NASA, was the culminating activity for the unit.
As part of the virtual field trip, students spoke to a NASA astronaut, Jordan Ecker, currently stationed on the International Space Station. They also visited the Mars Sandbox in Pasadena, Calif., where rovers are built and tested prior to being sent to Mars. The Mars Sandbox was built to mimic the terrain on Mars and to optimize landing, collect samples and transmit data and pictures. Students also had the opportunity to work in teams to design their own simulated space mission and create a special patch for their mission.
“I am incredibly grateful to NASA and the Treworgy Planetarium for providing my students with this incredible opportunity,” Rose said. “Not only did students get answers from NASA experts, they were inspired by the possibilities of what the future holds and hopeful that one day they can be a part of the space exploration process.”
To help give students an additional taste of space travel, NASA provided Cosmik ice cream, space Skittles, and space Starbursts for the students to sample. Students also received NASA souvenir stickers and had the opportunity to try Tang, which was created for the Apollo missions in the 1960s.
To express their appreciation, the students mailed thank-you notes and a box of Mt. Olive Pickles to NASA. Rose said that the students are hopeful that NASA will take the pickles to the International Space Station with their pickles becoming the first Mt. Olive pickles taken to outer space.
This is the second year Rose received the NASA education grant. Both grants were designed to bring space exploration to traditionally underserved areas and broaden participation in STEM areas. The grants had a combined value of $3,000.
— From the Wayne County Public Schools website