COLUMBIA — Students at Rock Bridge Elementary School will have the opportunity to speak directly with astronauts aboard the International Space Station in the spring.
"It was a competitive process with applicants from across the United States, and the competition was tough,"Assistant Principal Ryan Link said in an announcement at the school Thursday, which can be seen on CPS TV. "NASA offers only two windows per year to submit a proposal, and we're very excited to announce our school was selected for that."
To participate, a school must submit the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, also known as ARISS, proposal form. Due to limited contact opportunities, NASA is not able to accommodate all proposals.
Rock Bridge will be setting up an amateur radio station in the school's media center, which will generate a signal as the space station passes over the school. Students will have about 10 minutes to ask crew members questions.
This opportunity provides students a chance to become educated about life in space, as well as other space-related topics, Link said.
The primary goal of ARISS is to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects and in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — careers among students.
Caitlin Nichols, a second-grade teacher at Rock Bridge, helped develop a diverse and educational curriculum with related activities. The curriculum will be split into two levels; kindergarten through second grade and third grade through fifth grade.
"Over the summer, I worked really hard to gather, organize and create a variety of STEM-based resources that I feel will benefit the students of Rock Bridge Elementary as we explore general communication and space aviation," Nichols said at the announcement.
Each month, teachers will be given a binder that corresponds to one of the eight units in the curriculum: general aviation, general communication, space travel, astronauts and space life, International Space Station satellites and space technology, stars, planets and space colonies.
Although the curriculum is primarily related to STEM, it will also acknowledge language arts and fine arts, Nichols said.
After each unit is completed, students will be able to participate in an activity that corresponds to the unit.
"In the unit we're teaching over stars, we're hoping to host a 'Night Under the Stars' or a 'Telescope Night' that parents and families and children can come to and look at a telescope and actually see the stars at night," Nichols said.
The school also hopes to have a couple of astronauts who live in Columbia come speak to the students.
The school will be in contact with the International Space Center sometime during the week of March 3, 2014.
"We are hoping to instill in the children that anything is really possible," Nichols said. "The abstract concept that we are talking to someone who is in outer space is amazing, and if we can teach our children when they are this young that this is possible, who knows what they will be able to accomplish when they reach adulthood."
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