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Observer 11/24/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow STUDENTS GET TASTE FOR SPACE

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STUDENTS GET TASTE FOR SPACE

LIFTOFF THRILL: Willow Elementary School students Wesley Burgess and Shayla Powers participate in a simulated liftoff of a space shuttle on Tuesday. To simulate theexperience, students laid on the floor in chairs while watching the liftoff in the movie "Apollo 13" (The Observer/DICK MASON).
LIFTOFF THRILL: Willow Elementary School students Wesley Burgess and Shayla Powers participate in a simulated liftoff of a space shuttle on Tuesday. To simulate theexperience, students laid on the floor in chairs while watching the liftoff in the movie "Apollo 13" (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

The past 1 1/2 weeks have been a breath-taking and breath-counting experience for Willow Elementary School's 24 fifth-graders.

The students have enjoyed an out-of-this-world experience while keeping their feet firmly on their classroom floor.

The students have been preparing for an imaginary week-long flight in space aboard a space shuttle. Their space flight began Tuesday.

Liftoff occurred only after painstaking work was completed with with a galaxy's worth of excitement and smiles.

"They have enjoyed getting in character and their roles. They have had high energy,'' said student teacher Andrew Kurkinen, who is leading the project and working under Willow fifth-grade teacher Klel Carson.

Kurkinen is in Eastern Oregon University's Master of Teacher Education program.

Kurkinen has had students do things like determine how much oxygen and food their group needs to survive for a week in space. The children have been divided into groups of four or five and have had to determine exactly how many provisions they would need as a unit.

The children have tested their individual lung capacities by blowing through a tube into a water-filled jar. The amount of water blown out indicates how much oxygen the student needs for each breath.

The children also studied rocketry while preparing for liftoff. The students fired two rockets into the air at Willow with Kurkinen's help as part of this process.

They watched the liftoff in the movie "Apollo 13.'' The students were laying on the floor in their chairs with straps around them while watching the movie to simulate the liftoff experience.

The children seemed mesmerized by the experience.

"My budget was kind of limited, but (the simulated takeoff) worked,'' Kurkinen said with a smile. "They enjoyed it more than I thought they would.''

Although the space simulation program is only about half over, many students have already developed an interest in space, which they may have the rest of their lives. Zane Lundy said he is interested in becoming an astronaut.

"I want to know what it would be like floating in space,'' Zane said.

Liz Miller said she thought space would be frightening to learn about but has since developed a strong interest.

The Willow fifth-graders have also learned about astronomy. Jessica Swain has been intrigued with what she has been learning.

"It's been exciting to learn how far away the planets are. I thought they were a lot closer,'' Jessica said.

The natural fascination children have about space has made it easier for them to complete class assignments for the project.

"Their overall interest helped them get assignments done,'' Kurkinen said, adding that students don't groan as much now when he gives homework assignments.

Kurkinen began the project by paying tribute to the seven astronauts lost in the Columbia shuttle tragedy Feb. 1. Kurkinen had his students write their feelings about the tragedy in journals. The student teacher was impressed with the amount of sympathy the students showed.

Students are now keeping track of things such as the simulated consumption of food and oxygen supplies.

Each day a different student serves as group leader.

"They look forward to being in charge for a day,'' Kurkinen said.

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