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Space Day NASA Ames traveling space museum

By Suzanne Ortt

June 1, 2010

On Thursday, May 25, the Traveling Space Museum (TSM) came to town, specifically to Cesar Chavez Middle School in Union City. Excited students had a day of touching, trying, and learning.

On Wednesday, TSM trucks drove into the school parking lot, off-loaded the exhibits and set them up in designated sites. The procedure recalls the days when a circus would come to town. Advantages of this exhibit are learning opportunities for many more students than a field trip provides. The TSM, a 501 c 3 non-profit, does the planning and logistics. Chavez school?s staff primarily focuses on the educational aspects.

NASA Ames Research Center teamed with the Traveling Space Museum and set this goal: to enthuse youth about space, science and NASA?s accomplishments. Through 14 activity stations, the scholars learned the way astronauts learn ? by doing. NASA experts and aerospace enthusiasts manned these stations.

One highlight was the simulated space toilet. A student volunteer, fully clothed, of course, sat in the toilet, while Jonas Dino, of NASA Ames and a New Haven USD school board member, explained the technique involved. One unusual instrument he showed was the UCD, (urine collection device). Dino presented all information in a frank and humorous manner, which delighted the middle-schoolers. The session was reminiscent of Hands On Grossology by Sylvia Branzei.

The remote controlled rovers were popular. Several in the audience had the chance to drive one either locally or long distance. To maneuver it long distance, the operator looked at the monitor to drive the rover, located 25 miles away at Ames. These small robots are used in the Mojave Desert for experimentation because the terrain is analogous to the Mars terrain. A fun fact was that these machines couldn?t be used on Mars, as the tires would freeze.

In another area, girls and boys accepted the challenging task of walking in anti gravity boots. It was not easy. Jag Dhanda, one of those who tried, said it was ?hard to walk but easy to jump.?

Displayed throughout Cesar Chavez Middle School were the mobile space lab, flight simulator, microjet, the Wright kite, hovercraft, water rockets, lunar roving vehicle, a space suit, and big bang trivia. At one station, the instructor stressed that the space field requires more than math and engineering. English is needed. Reports are often needed for cooperative efforts and proper use of language is vital.

A most significant quote concerned the scientific process. Mistakes will be made. One expert stated that his boss, Chris McKay says, ?If you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough.? This premise is a valuable learning aid.

?The Cesar Chavez staff prepared their classes for the Space Museum visit,? reported Patsy Lockhart, journalism teacher and literacy coach. A follow up is planned. Students had blue booklets in which to take notes about what they experienced. During each exhibit, they could write or draw images of their favorites.

The Friday after Space Day was set aside for reflection. Students could choose from a myriad of projects. Here were a few. They could write thank you letters, draw a significant event, and show the relationship between math and science.

Chavez? staff had worked hard to make the visit of the Traveling Space Museum more than a teaching moment. It was transformed into three momentous teaching days.

Teamwork by many CCMS staff from top to bottom was the key to a successful event. Varied projects included these. Lockhart prepared a handout. Kris Milam made the note-taking booklet with a map of exhibits, based on handout. Linda Gong and Maria Spratley worked on breakfast, lunch and snacks for the working guests. Carolyn Aguirre and Joanne Zacharides organized the class groups and the schedule on their own time.

Ivor Dawson had the inspiration to begin ?Space Day? in 1998. It combines a space camp with the excitement of a theme park. Inspired by a trip to Cape Canaveral, he became a volunteer space education teacher in Los Angeles. This evolved into the Traveling Space Museum. Dawson said, when he was in school, he was never challenged. School had no appeal for him. His goal for the Traveling Space Museum is to give thrills and a rich educational experience to the entire student body.

Space Day was a win-win day for all.

To learn about the Traveling Space Museum, visit www.travelingspacemuseum.org.
For space information, go to www.nasa.gov.


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