When students talk to astronauts – ARISS and Mt Ousley PS!

How do I get to be an astronaut?

Can you eat spaghetti and runny sauce in space?

How does your work benefit mankind?

How do you prepare for a mission and how long does it take?

What do you miss most about home?

These were just some of the amazing and interesting questions that K-6 students at Mt Ousley Public School (audio and footage on this link) were able to ask Commander Kevin Ford on the International Space Station between 7:35 and 7:45 UTC on March 12 2013. Before parents, community and their intrigued peers 14 students got to ask the science questions of a lifetime. For those present it was a fun, absorbing and important space science and education moment that demonstrated that we can break down global boundaries to inspire and educate tomorrow’s future scientists.

Through ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) and NASA partnerships and more than 8 months of planning a great science event was accessible to all. Importantly the event gave the school cause to investigate and explore science and space concepts in valid and engaging fashion.


When you tell each class that they need to formulate questions and research space they get get interested. When you empower the class as a whole to pick the most interesting question they feel valued. When the student who wrote that question gets to stand up on the big night and ask that question they are excited. When they hear the crackle of radio static and then Commander Kevin Ford talking from the ISS as it passes over Italy at 27000km/hr and 450km above the Earth they are fascinated and empowered. Likewise the adults watching and the listeners via the Internet and the NASA feed feel connections to space and human endeavour.

Programs such as this are essential on many fronts. Firstly the educational benefit cannot be underestimated; students researching and questioning with purpose! They will be talking to an astronaut who is the expert, right there, right now living the dream and exploring and experimenting in space!

Secondly, this is real science with real learning, the live contact creates immediacy and urgency; a moment to be savoured.

Thirdly, we live in a global society. We surf the web, chat and use social media (as do the NASA astronauts) to communicate. In finding answers we want our students to communicate (safely and responsibly) to whoever, wherever and whenever. We want to break down the walls and share with those can help us become better informed, responsible and effective global citizens.

Challenge, innovation, exploration –  things we want our students engaged with to better prepare them for future careers and the future itself!


Checkout the NASA released audio here!


2011 Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy Applications Open

You only have to have a read of the previous posts to see how much the Honewell Educators @ Space Academy program has influenced by teaching in  recent months –from rocketry and space to innovative math lessons.

Applications are now open for 2011. Follow the link for a possible countdown to a rewarding learning opportunity!!

2011 Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy Applications

Sussex Inlet PS Rocket Club Mission One – reflection

Pop Rockets

Well its been a little over three months since I attended the Honeywell Space Academy for Educators program at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Alabama, a detailed review is a few posts below. One of the highlights was exploring how elementary students can be safely introduced to space exploration and the science behind it through a rocketry based curriculum.

On my return I established an after school rocket club targetted at a small group of eight upper primary students who expressed interest in participating. I was looking to pilot a five week program that stepped students through a range of theory and practical lessons using rocketry as the means of creating, stimulating, encourage interest in science and math related curriculum.

I based my program on the NASA Rockets Educators Guide and the Victorian Space Science and Education Centre’s Rocketry for Kids Resource along with numerous videos including Apollo, Ares and the private SpaceX consortium.

The students stepped through the following sequence;

Week 1 – Rocket history, space links, basic physics, balloon rocket construction, test and redesign, mission patch

Week 2 – Ares Rocket development, SpaceX, design and fly pop rockets (bicarb soda and alka seltzer)

Week 3 -Estes models rockets, flight trajectory, apogee, build Estes Alpha kit rocket

Week 4 – Launch day( what it’s all about!), fly A and B engine models.

Week 5 – Review course, fly C engine rocket and complete mission patch

The kids greatly enjoyed the design and make process and and off course firing the models gave everyone a huge buzz. I’ve considered a bottle rocket component and will include this activity when I can build a suitable safe and reliable launcher.

One of the important features of the investigate, design, make process that is often overlooked  in classrooms due to time is the importance of redesign and retest. It is through this process that critical thinking and analysis takes place and leads to improved design outcomes.

The course will run again next term  with a new group and again I’ll take their feedback and refine. So far, so good and I hope we have gained a few more students heading into high school with an enthusiasm and energy for science and math related study and careers.

Building Alpha Rockets On the launchpad! Launching