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Buffalo Ridge kids blast-off at the Challenger Learning Center

Three-two-one … blast off! BRE fourth graders are inside mission control ready to send the space shuttle to the moon at the CLCC.

Article by Elean Gersack; photos courtesy of Amy Jaramillo

In late October, fourth graders at Buffalo Ridge Elementary School took a trip to the moon at the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado (CLCC) in Colorado Springs. The CLCC is one of about 50 centers nationwide dedicated to providing a space science education where students and teachers can explore space and understand the needs for and applications of mathematics, science and technology.

This hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunity was selected to match-up with curriculum standards and to further student understanding of science – specifically the sun, moon, and earth. Fourth grade students, together with their teachers Kelly Hartman, Amy Jaramillo, Nicole Kane and Mike Mizones prepared for the important mission by learning about triangulation, coordinates, and what would be needed for survival on the moon – well before hopping on board buses for the drive south to CLCC.

After the prep work, each student applied for a job at the space center. Next, each classroom was tasked with creating a patch for the mission. Ideas were abound and students had to come to a consensus on all aspects of the patch. Hartman remarked that making the mission patch was her favorite part. “The students had to work through consensus. Voting is easier but consensus is more fair,” she said.

Once at the CLCC, students took to their jobs and began a journey of a lifetime. Half of the group was hired for mission control and the other half for the space shuttle. For the shuttle launch, it was a matter of teamwork, time crunches and counting down to make it happen. “Everyone’s job mattered,” said Jaramillo.

With big metal doors, seats, and movie screens, the simulated shuttle gave students a feeling of what it is like to launch into space. “The best part was to feel what other astronauts feel like when they blast off,” shared fourth grader, Luke C. After finally reaching the moon, the shuttle locked into the space station and the astronauts put on headsets to connect with their comrades back at mission control.

During the journey, Joshua R. noted all of the objects floating through space. “Relative
velocity makes things look like they are in slow motion but they are really traveling millions of miles per hour,” he shared.

After the mission was complete, the crew met in the debriefing room where the mission was reviewed and team members were awarded their mission patch.

According to Jaramillo, this was a great way to engage kids in real-world learning. “The best rewards we took away were teamwork, communication, exposure to space and future science job ideas – and there was a direct correlation between the students’ actions and what happened. It was awesome!”

The mission patch from Mrs. Jaramillo’s class – made by consensus from the students.



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