Early in the school year Mrs. Magner asked the kids to write down the answer to this question: "If you could travel anywhere and see anything where would you go?" The responses she received challenged her own thinking about what could be achieved. "It was at this point that I had to make a decision, I could turn those responses into the usual cliché or I could challenge the kids to make it a reality and actually go see the things they had only dreamed about!" After talking it over with the administration they decided this special group of kids was up for the challenge of making a trip to Kennedy Space Center a reality.
"Once we had the idea that we were going on a science trip to Florida, the work really began. We did many fund raisers, and applied for many grants. Some of the fund raisers we did were selling pumpkins (generously donated by the Whiting family), raking yards, selling Christmas trees at Delta Ace Hardware, selling wreaths, having silent auctions at DMS, and selling yummy treats to the DMS students and staff. We also received money from the Chet Coleman memorial, the Cocker Foundation, Western Colorado Area Health Education Center, which has been a partner with DMS for several years now, and a grant from the gifted and talented program through the school district. Another large amount of money came from generous individuals in our community. We, as a class, spent a lot of time and effort raising the money needed to reach our goal. All of us agree that the hard work made the trip that more memorable and special.
"It was finally here, the day we had been preparing for eight months! On Monday, May 4, the 11 students and three sponsors boarded the turbo prop at Montrose airport to turn a dream into a real adventure. Many of the kids had never flown, so getting to experience flight and turbulence for the first time was exhilarating. Seeing the excitement in their eyes and hearing their questions was the best part of every day. ‘Is that the ocean we are flying over? I've never seen the ocean before!' ‘How do planes stay in the air.... oh, I think I remember.... it's Bernoulli's principle... right?' ‘Wow, I can see the tops of the clouds, we must be over the troposphere now!' While we were on the plane I just listened to the excitement and joy in their voices.
"For this week I am not the teacher...the world is their teacher... I just get the blessing of watching them learn.
"The first morning in Orlando we woke up bright and early and walked two miles from our motel to Sea World. We had to look at every palm tree along the way and inspect the moss growing from the trees, something new to us Coloradoans! Once there we visited the many animal exhibits. Penguins, polar bears, alligators, turtles, Beluga whales and other interesting sea creatures were all part of our experience. Dolphins, Shamu, the sea lion and walrus shows demonstrated how these animals move and interact with humans.
"Unbeknownst to some of us, Sea World has quite a selection of roller coasters, which we had to experience so they would know the true meaning of G-force and inversions! After getting our fill of adrenaline we headed to the stingray lagoon where we let the stingrays suck on our hands. The last event was a helicopter simulation through the arctic, which made us much more sick than the roller coasters!
"On Wednesday we traveled to the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Cape Canaveral. Here we checked in and began our tour through the ATX program (Astronaut Training Experience). This is a special educational portion of Kennedy Space Center in which students get hands-on experience being an astronaut. The kids got to choose their roles and then they were trained on what they would do during a mission launch. Five students were on board the shuttle and the other six were mission control. Once the students got the shuttle into orbit, two astronauts exited the spacecraft and performed a task in 1/6th gravity, just like they would experience on the moon. After the task they re-boarded the shuttle and got ready for re-entry and landing. The first attempt to land didn't go so well, but the second try went much better and we successfully completed the mission.
"After our mission our tour guide did some demonstrations with us. We learned about the use of polymers in space to absorb liquids so they don't damage the electronics. We learned how to boil water at 60 degrees Fahrenheit... just take the pressure away! We also saw that if you remove atmospheric pressure from an object, the pressure on the inside will make it explode. We got to touch an actual four-inch-thick tile that is used on the orbiter's surface. Our guide started up a blowtorch that reaches 1500 degrees and set it on the tile's surface, then had the kids touch the back... it was cool to the touch! She explained the tile is made of silicon and air and is just part of the amazing technology that is used for space flight. Next we experienced a giant gyroscope (multi-axis trainer) that simulates how it feels if your spacecraft spins out of control. We toured the Astronaut Hall of Fame and sat in an actual Gemini spacecraft!
"On Thursday we went to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center. We rode a shuttle to three different stops around Merritt Island, including the launch pad area (as close as you are allowed), the Saturn/Apollo Center and the International Space Station area. Each place had a short introduction video with loads of information. One of the most amazing things we learned about was the "crawler" which is the 6,000,000-pound piece of equipment that transports the shuttle to the launch pad. It can carry 12,000,000 pounds and is about the size of a baseball field! The best part of the day was seeing the shuttle Atlantis and Endeavor on the launch pads and all the hustle and bustle surrounding them, getting them ready for launch. After the tour we went to the Shuttle Launch Experience which is a simulation of an actual launch... pretty cool! We went to the 3D IMAX movie that was a history of the Apollo missions. This was the most inspirational movie ever! It showed actual moonwalk footage and you heard from the astronauts; what they were thinking, feeling and hoping for during their time on the moon. I had never realized how much time we have spent on the moon's surface... 296 hours have been logged on the lunar surface by astronauts performing different experiments and collecting samples! The major theme was how far we have come in the last 50 years... it all started with a challenge from John F. Kennedy. "After an exhilarating day at the Space Center we made an afternoon stop at Cocoa Beach. Most of us had never seen the ocean, so this was quite an amazing experience. We got to play in the sand and the waves, we saw jellyfish washed up by the rising tides, tiny crabs that shuffled quickly into the sand after the tide rolled away, and found many unique shells. Even though we only spent a few hours at the beach it was one of the best experiences on our trip. We got to feel the energy in the waves, smell and taste the saltiness of the water, feel the sand with our feet and see all the tiny animals that live in the beach's ecosystem.
"Friday's adventure began with another two-mile walk, this time to Discovery Cove. When we arrived we got to interact with a barred owl, an armadillo, a two-toed sloth and an anteater, and that was just while we were waiting in line! The surroundings were breathtaking - the lush greenery, the tropical fish, birds, flowers, white sand and crystal clear waters were almost dreamlike. Once we had our wetsuits and snorkel gear we headed for the tropical reef where most of us snorkeled for the first time. It was a 30-foot deep pool teaming with 56 different species of fish, three different kinds of rays and an internal tank that held sharks and barracudas that you could see through glass as you snorkeled! Next it was time to swim with the dolphins! We broke up into a group of boys and a group of girls and each group had a trainer. We got to touch the dolphins, kiss them, learn how they are trained, and then we each got to take a ride on our 450-pound porpoise friend! We spent the rest of our time snorkeling through the "wind-away" river and visiting over 100 species of birds in the "Explorer's Aviary."
"Saturday we ended our week by saying goodbye to the heat and humidity and flying back to Montrose where we were greeted by our friends and family. Our hearts were happy and full. We had a dream and we made it come true; there aren't too many greater things in life!
"When we returned everyone asked, ‘What the best thing about the trip?' That is hard to answer! Each day was unique, different and wonderful! The best part for me was watching the excitement in the students' eyes, seeing the questions form and the answers circulate through their minds. The best part of the trip is yet to come. It will come much later when those kids return after many years and tell me how they chose to answer the questions that this trip formed.
Written by Jennifer Magner and the eighth grade students who dreamed big.blog comments powered by Disqus