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!