NAES 3rd graders exploring the cosmos

Exploring new frontiers into the world of astronomy and planetology, third graders at New Albany Elementary School are reaching new levels in their classroom instruction when they recently delved into the cosmos of the solar system.

Mrs. Lacey Stebbins, a student teacher with the University of Mississippi, has been teaching the third graders in Ms. Vicky Latham’s classroom an in-depth analysis of the solar system. During their two-week unit study, Stebbins organized a means for the students to broaden their understanding of planetology and astronomy. All of the third graders were able to experience a Skype conversation with Mr. Stephen Culivan, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Aerospace Education Specialist at the John C. Stennis Space Center, last Wednesday morning at school. Skyping is a software application that allows users to make video/voice calls over the internet.
The first two classes that were able to Skype with Culivan were Ms. Jonna Shaw and Ms. Vicky Latham’s class.
Culivan asked the students some of the things they have been learning in class about the solar system.
Shelby Hudspeth, a student in Latham’s class, said, “The moon does not make its own light. The sun shines on the moon and you can see the moon’s faces. The moon is a big mirror that reflects light.”
Culivan told the students that satellites take pictures of the solar system and he wanted to show the students a slideshow of those planets and more in the solar system. It was called “The Solar System: A Learning Center.”
He went on to give the studnets interesting and important facts related to the planets and the solar system. Some of the information he told the students is as follows: The sun is important to our solar system, but it is not a planet – it is a star; all of the planets can fit into the sun and there will still be room left over; our solar system has a sun, eight planets,asteroids, and dwarf planets.
Culivan then told the students information about the specific planets, such as, Jupiter is the biggest planet in our solar system and has 62 moons, there is no life on Mercury, on Venus it is cloudy all of the time, it rains acid all of the time and it is 900 degrees on Venus.
He then said, “Twelve astronauts have walked on the moon and Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon.” he asked the students to guess who was the first eprson to walk on the moon and they guessed Neil Armstrong correctly.
The students then got up and did a presentation with Culivan by having three students grab string and a globe of the Earth and two students wrapped string around the equator ten times, then the other student walked backwards. According to Culivan, “If you walk around the equator ten times, that is how far away our moon is from the Earth. To go to Mars, the string would have to be two football fields long.”
After the presentation, Culivan asked the students if they had any questions to ask him.
Darrius Marion, a student in Ms. Shaw’s class, asked, “How do the planets and the moon float?”
Culivan responded, “They really don’t float, but they have gravity. The bigger something is, the more gravity it has.”
Mario Galvan, a student in Ms. Latham’s class, asked, “What do you learn about space?
Culivan responded, “I learn a lot about space by working at NASA. And, just like students like you, we have to know reading, spelling, math, science, music, history, and how to be healthy.”
Molly Gafford, a student in Ms. Latham’s class, asked, “Is your job hard?”
Culivan said, “Well, there are good days and bad days, but I love my job. I have been teaching at NASA for 22 years and taught in a classroom for six years. It is a good job and I love it.”
During the first week’s study of the solar system, Mrs. Stebbins introduced what causes day and night during the Earth’s revolution around the sun. In addition to the lesson, the students also Skyped with Mrs. Rebecca Keep’s third grade classroom from North Pole Elementary in North Pole, Alaska. She integrated the time zone differences between the two states and compared and contrasted the sky ways.
A few of the students from both classes were asked what they liked about the Skype presentation and what they liked the most about learning about the solar system in their classrooms.
Molly Gafford said, “I like that you can look at something that is really far away in a telescope and it makes it seem closer than it really is.”
Jade Johnson said, “I liked learning about the distance to Earth and the distance between planets. I learned that three Earths can fit into that eye on Jupiter.”
Mario Galvan said that the favorite part of the Skype experience was seeing the planets on a slideshow.  and he learned that there are 62 moons on Jupiter.
Brayden Stephenson said, “Being able to see him on the internet and looking at all of the planets on the screen was my favorite part.”
Anastasha Bernethy said, “ On Jupiter, in that red spot, three planets can fit into that spot.”
Cameron Stout said, “I liked it when he showed us the planets. In class, we learned that the Earth and the Sun are hot.”
Ricardo Zuniga said, “I liked it when he told us about gravity. I liked learning about all kinds of planets.”
Ms. Jonna Shaw said, “Mrs. Stebbins has been dedicated to teaching and to the students. Without her research and help with NASA, these students would not have had this opportunity to Skype with a teacher from NASA about the solar system. She encourages students to work with and use technology.”