Students to talk live with astronauts on Space Station

Students to talk live with astronauts on Space Station

Twenty Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students will take a field trip to outer space Nov. 26 in a rare opportunity to talk live with two astronauts on the International Space Station.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected CCPS to participate in Expedition 37/38, a program that connects students and astronauts through a live downlink from the space station. Students will talk to astronauts Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio for about 20 minutes using Telepresence, a conferencing technology available in all CCPS high schools.  Student questions explore what it is like to live and work in space.

The downlink is a chance for students to interact with astronauts in live time in their work environment, which is outer space. “This is the closest a student can get to job shadowing with an astronaut,” said Monique Wilson, director of the Science Center at St. Charles High School. In-flight education downlinks, according to NASA information, are opportunities for students to interact with crewmembers through a question and answer session. The downlink allows students to hear and see the crewmembers live from space; however, the crewmembers are unable to see the audience. The downlink is broadcast live on NASA TV and streamed live on the NASA website at CCPS will tape the program and provide a broadcast on late Tuesday afternoon.

A committee of Space Foundation teacher liaisons selected the 20 students based on questions they submitted for the astronauts. Students had an opportunity to submit questions through science and art classes, and teachers submitted their best questions to the committee. The committee included Marissa Cross of Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School, Laura North of Henry E. Lackey High School, Charles Newcomb of Westlake High School and Aparna Joshi of Milton M. Somers Middle School.

Students participating in the downlink are Branden Hicks, fifth grade, Berry Elementary School; Morgan Thompson, fifth grade, Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School; Candace Jackson, fourth grade, William A. Diggs Elementary School; Nina Brown, second grade, William B. Wade Elementary School; Victoria Gordon, third grade, Indian Head Elementary School; Leah Defalco, fifth grade, Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School; Jolie Lombardi, second grade, Higdon; Nina Harris, fifth grade, J.C. Parks Elementary School; Tamara McGhee, fifth grade, Mary H. Matula Elementary School; Alisha Douglas, third grade, Eva Turner Elementary School; Elizabeth Parent, eighth grade, Milton M. Somers Middle School; Annie Landgraf, sixth grade, Somers; Misa Oliver, eighth grade, Mattawoman Middle School; Daryl Raguindin, eighth grade, Benjamin Stoddert Middle School; Andrew Fan, seventh grade, Piccowaxen Middle School; Tanina Bivins, junior, La Plata High School; Kris Lukas, sophomore, La Plata High School; Kaylee Wade, freshman, Henry E. Lackey High School; Adriana Carioti, junior, Thomas Stone High School;  and Gill-Jan Eleazar, senior, North Point High School.

The downlink is part of NASA’s Teaching from Space Program and a continuation of the CCPS focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) offerings for students. “Charles County is always in pursuit of real world STEM applications of content that students are learning in the classroom. This a dry run for what we are hoping to offer at the Science Center at St. Charles High School for both our students and the community,” Wilson said. The Science Center will open in the summer of 2014.

NASA selected CCPS for the downlink through a competitive proposal process that demonstrates the school system’s commitment to STEM programs and space education. According to Wilson, the proposal had to include how CCPS supports space participation in its curriculum and how it contributes to the overall instructional focus.

The downlink is a continuation of a project started in CCPS two years ago when students participated in the Student Space Flight Experiment Program. Students participated in a countywide contest in which they developed experiments and a mission patch to fly aboard the last Space Shuttle mission as well as the first commercial flight of SpaceX Dragon to the international Space Station. Henry E. Lackey High School students were selected to send their experiments to outer space both years.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX Coordinator and Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Connie W. Armstead, Section 504 Coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, central office building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, Maryland 20646. 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

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