“What have we been talking about that is so intriguing and amazing?” Ms. Salinas asked the class. “Space!” She turned the floor over to our extraterrestrial visitors. No, not aliens. Seven men and women from NASA Johnson Space Center gave fourth grade a rundown on the history of shuttle travel, technology, and what it’s like to live on the international space station.

What was impossible only a few decades ago is now commonplace. Our students have only ever lived in a world where the stars were attainable. But our NASA visitors filled them in on the 1960s when traveling the universe was still the unwon prize, and Russia and the USA were locked in a heated battle.

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After learning about the history of space travel, the scholars participated in a variety of space-themed stations. One station allowed the fourth graders to analyze and learn more about freeze-dried space food such as: green beans and mushrooms or chicken salad. Astronauts just add water and presto! Dinner is served.

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Ever wonder what it’s like to sleep on a space station? Our scholars had the chance to try a space sleep sack on for size. In space, it’s very easy to be disoriented so astronauts will often sleep floating in different directions. They velcro a pillow onto their heads so it won’t float away. In fact, velcro is used all over the International Space Station. Sanjan Khadka commented, “That’s really smart. I’m going to be an astronaut.”

Next they moved on to learn about ultra-violet rays and radiation. Each scholar was given a white bead and special instructions on how to cover the bead to protect it from radiation. The group then stepped outside and watched in awe as their beads changed colors to reflect radiation absorption. Afterwards, they returned to the school hallway and the beads slowly returned to their original color. From measuring out the distance from Earth to Mars to learning about the power of gravity using marbles, the scholars had an out-of-this-world experience without leaving the schoolyard. Thanks to NASA, our scholars saw that space is closer to reality than they ever thought possible.

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