Space exploration without leaving Rhinelander
Shuttle docked at local school
By Eileen Persike
If space is the final frontier, Nativity Catholic School students became explorers last week when the Dream Flight USA STEM Shuttle landed at their school. Looking like a cross between a decked out motor home and a bus, the Shuttle was docked in the school parking lot.
While aboard, students in grades three through five engaged in a series of hands-on work stations, to give them a somewhat realistic view of an astronaut’s life on a space shuttle.
“I know a lot about the solar system, but I didn’t know that much about what they do in a space station,” said fourth grader Jacob Schallock. “That’s what I was most looking forward to seeing.”
Jacob’s teacher, Ann Zemski learned about the shuttle during a visit with her parents.
“My dad saw a brochure and gave it to me, saying it might be something I would be interested in,” Zemski recalled. “I approached our principal with the idea in September and it was approved right away.” The space unit in science class is always a favorite, Zemski added.
The students, in groups, tackled experiments and challenges at various work stations. Opportunities included working a mechanical arm, designing a floor plan for a space station, demonstrating the effects of a depleted ozone layer and allowing students to create solar power.
The ozone station was particularly interesting to Nora Rutkowski and James Heck. It involved a light, representing the sun, and beads that turned colors under the light.
“I know now a lot more now than I did,” Nora said. “Like the ozone and how it’s getting so warm that the polar bears could go extinct.”
A hole in the ozone, James explained, means “we could all go extinct, because we could all burn up.”
“I think I want to go up into space,” Eva Hetland said. “A lot of these science experiments look pretty cool and just to do it– It’s fun!”
Students also created a meal which includes the proper food groups, tested their muscles on strength meters and experienced the difficulty of working in space.
Nora summed up the hour aboard the shuttle by saying, “everything I learned today I never knew.”
This is the tenth year of operation for the STEM Shuttle, which was created by Sharon Ryan, a recently retired fifth grade teacher in Wausau. For more information, visit stemshuttle.com.