Soaring into space on a shuttle is something that students at Lancaster ISD Elsie Robertson Middle school may have to wait for a few years to do. But during a recent Educate Texas NASA Driven to Explore event, students were not only taken on a journey to space but they were able to hear from Astronaut Christopher Cassidy about what life is like on the space shuttle and the International Space Station.
“It was so interesting to learn about what kind of food they eat in space,” Elsie Robertson Middle School seventh grader Saul Diaz said. “I was also surprised to see how much we are able to work with other countries now to make exploring space possible.”
The event was sponsored by Educate Texas as a way to reinforce their support of T-STEM Academics in Lancaster ISD and other districts across the state. Deputy Programs Director Kenya Wilson said events like the NASA mobile exhibit allow them to partner with industries and schools to expose students to STEM careers and the STEM thinking process.
“This event highlighted Lancaster ISD students ability to apply their understanding of force, motion and momentum with space travel and daily functions on the International Space Center,” Wilson said. “The students who attended this event showed that the past five years of Educate Texas investing in their STEM education has paid off because their expectation and eagerness to learn was evident in the questions they asked during this event.”
Cassidy said he enjoyed visiting with the students and watching them as they asked him questions about his experience as an astronaut.
“This is one of the highlights of what I get to do,” Cassidy said. “While I enjoy my time in space, I really enjoy seeing the next generation of astronauts as they ask questions and show interest in what we do in space.”
While some students may not have interest in flying to the moon every students took something away from the NASA experience.
“It was really cool to know that each astronaut on the space shuttle comes from a different walk of life and yet they all have to get along for the time they are in space,” eighth grader Nevaeh Adams said. “What astronaut Cassidy had to say really helped me understand that whatever you do you need to enjoy what you do and be able to work with your team to accomplish your mission.”
In an effort to expose students to the benefits of STEM education, Lancaster ISD provides students with a variety of learning experiences outside the general education classroom.
“I was so thankful that our students were able to have the experience of speaking to an astronaut in person,” Elsie Robertson Middle school AVID Teacher Demetria Ivory said. “I live by the philosophy that learning doesn’t just take place in the classroom. I believe that opportunities like what they were able to experience will stay with students.”
Lancaster ISD Secondary Science Curriculum Specialist Nicole Bates said when students can hear stories from someone in the STEM field, they are able to understand the importance of learning and discovery, building things, collecting data, experimenting and how this can be used in everyday life both on Earth and in space.
“It is not every day that students get to meet and speak to an astronaut who has been on the International Space Station,” Bates said. “It was so exciting to see our students' excitement they asked engaging questions to Mr. Cassidy about his experience as an astronaut.”