Monday, February 20, 2012

Crayton students have once-in-a-lifetime learning experience

I have no doubt that a science teacher is responsible for this event, and if I knew who that was, I'd celebrate their name.

If it's Ann Carbone, thank you! Thanks for helping to illustrate the strength and potential of our public schools.

The Crayton Middle School greeting echoed through the school auditorium and across the galaxy as students and faculty welcomed some special guest speakers to their campus Wednesday.

“Houston Space Station, this is Crayton Middle School. Can you hear me?” seventh-grade teacher Ann Carbone called out to astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

“This is the space station. We can hear you loud and clear,” the reply came – from thousands of miles away.

The Richland 1 school is one of three nationwide selected to take part in a downlink video with the space station. During an often lively question-and-answer session, students inquired about a range of subjects related to space travel including the obstacles to becoming an astronaut, how crew members stay in contact with their families and the special exercise regiments astronauts have to undergo.

In recent months students in Crayton’s International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme have participated in a comprehensive study of space. Those lessons were conducted in various subject areas and included such things as the biographies of astronauts, the use of math in problem-solving in space and the science of space exercise.

“It was part of an integrated study,” said Carbone, the seventh-grade lead teacher and a certified NASA Solar System Educator.

Students were challenged to come up with questions for the astronauts about their work and mission, and about 20 got the chance to ask them.

Seventh-grader Ian Stewart said he was surprised to learn about the stringent exercise regimen astronauts must maintain.

“I didn’t know they had to work out so much to maintain their body mass to be able to come back to the Earth,” he said.

The astronaut’s answers were spiced with humor at times.

Asked whether they have to eat food they don’t like, one crew member said, “it depends if you want to go to bed hungry.”

Wednesday’s downlink was coordinated by the district’s technical staff with assistance from SCETV.

Crayton Middle School was selected for the program largely because of its commitment to math and science and its broader study of the space program.

Principal Susan Childs said the morning session offered more visual evidence of the careers available to students.

“It brings to light that (former astronaut) Charles Bolden is a Richland 1 graduate and that our students can reach these heights,” she said.

The school has follow-up activities planned in the coming weeks that will build on the lessons to this point.

“I hope they will get to see math and science at work and that it’s not just something we do in the classroom,” Carbone said. “We hope it will give them a global perspective.”

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