A novel approach to teaching elementary students about space and planet earth has been developed by some teachers who are creating a one night space museum with cooperation from corporations that enable space exploration.
The staff at Bunker Hill Elementary School in Middletown had bigger plans that called for more than maps and photos. Plans so big, in fact, that they needed to borrow Appoquinimink High School for an evening this week, because their own building simply wouldn’t hold them.
“Our goal is to make it exciting for them, so we just got everything we could think of,” said Amanda Bowen, the teacher who organized the event.
This year, the school launched “Mission: Space,” a one-night space museum created for its fourth and fifth grade students.
A 22-foot tall inflatable globe sat in the gym, which staff from the Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory brought kids inside to give a sense of scale – Africa and the Pacific Ocean, for example, were much bigger than most kids had thought.
Next to the planet, astronomers led kids on their hands and knees into a STARlab planetarium, where they learned about the stars and constellations.
Out in the foyer were two spacesuits and a table full of items from ILC Dover, the company that manufactures the suits for NASA. One of the suits was cut away so that students could poke their faces into the helmet and get a first-person view from inside.
Nearby, John Neubauer kept careful watch over a slide that held something priceless – actual samples of dust and rock from the moon and from asteroids that had crashed to earth.
Only about 840 pounds of material came back from the moon during the Apollo missions, said Neubauer, a state Department of Education employee who used to be an education specialist for NASA. Most of that is guarded at the Johnson Space Center. Some of the few samples that were made available to the public were stolen.
“It’s a very rare and amazing thing for these kids to be able to see,” Neubauer said. “We’ve learned a lot about what’s on the moon from samples like these, but we’ve also learned a lot about our own Earth. There’s not the erosion and weathering that we have here on Earth up there, so it gives us a lot of insights into what Earth used to look like.”
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