Event a hit with Shooting Stars

Posted: Wednesday, November 24, 2004


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  Caleb Alkire, left, and Joseph Newton use a robotic arm to move an astronaut figure from Earth to Mars. Alkire and Newton are fourth-graders. Photo by Layton Ehmke

Lead Flight Director Tamra Wear from the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska helps sixth-grader Sean Shoemaker get started making a paper rocket at the family space night Friday at Nikiski North Star Elementary School. Kids and parents learned from a variety of space- and science-oriented activities.

Photo by Layton Ehmke

While much of the community was b-balling it up with the Harlem Globetrotters, another group was trotting right off the globe and into outer space. Recently consolidated Nikiski North Star Elementary hosted around 350 people at its Family Space Night and School Bus to Space wrap-up Friday.

Space night was the main event of the six-week schoolwide space theme that started with a visit from astronaut Bill Ophelien. More experts in aeronautics, rocketry, robotics and astronautics visited the school throughout the year leading up to this family night. Space night offered activities like the Imaginarium star lab dome, moon walking and space simulations.

Flight director Diana Thomas from the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai described what an astronaut physically experiences in an experiment she calls "puffy head, chicken leg," where kids sit in the launch position and feel how blood flows to the head. The flight directors also helped make paper rockets and brought two robotic arms for people to test their motor skills. Thomas and Tamra Wear, lead flight director, visited classrooms the entire week, teaching about rocketry, robots, light and light waves and living in space. Wear said their goal is to expose the kids to space science and give them some ideas about general astronautics.

"Friday night was great, we were busy the whole night. One thing I really liked was how we were there all week and the kids knew me and I knew them. It made it a little more special," Wear said.


Caleb Alkire, left, and Joseph Newton use a robotic arm to move an astronaut figure from Earth to Mars. Alkire and Newton are fourth-graders.

Photo by Layton Ehmke

Wear taught the Nikiski students about light waves when they made spectroscopes, but said they probably enjoyed rocketry most.

"You can't go wrong with paper rockets," she said.

Lori Manion, principal, said the space theme was chosen by the instructional committee composed of teachers and parents because there is a great amount to learn about space and it seemed like something the whole school would have fun studying. Manion had a busy night giving away T-shirts, turkeys and gas cards in the space night raffle.

"I'm surprised we had so many people here. If you weren't here, you missed out on a big Nikiski community bash," Manion said.

Barbara Lodge, kindergarten teacher, said she was happy to see such a good turnout.

"Everyone looks like they're having a good time. They all seem very connected to what's going on," Lodge said.

The most popular activities were rocketry and the Imaginarium star dome, a demonstration of some major stars and constellations. The certified presenters explained the nature of Polaris and the Great Bear, Betelgeuse, Orion and the legends behind those and others. They encouraged kids to make up their own stories about the shapes they see in the night sky.

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