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franklin county times

Students, parents explore space

PCES students Teresa Smith and Alaina Burcham look at a model of the solar system at the PCES Family Space Night. Photo by Bart Moss.
PCES students Teresa Smith and Alaina Burcham look at a model of the solar system at the PCES Family Space Night. Photo by Bart Moss.

By Bart Moss

For the FCT

For centuries, children of all ages have stared into the night sky and dreamed about what lies beyond Earth’s atmosphere. These dreamers have gone on to become astronauts, astronomers, meteorologists, scientists and much more all because they dared to dream and had teachers who encouraged those dreams.

Last Monday night, Phil Campbell Elementary School kindergarten teachers hosted Family Space Night for their students. The purpose of the event was to encourage parental involvement in their child’s education.

The program was definitely a hit – parents and their children wasted no time diving into the different activities teachers had set up in the classrooms. Afterward, they headed onto the playground to stare up into the night sky with telescopes, binoculars and with their own eyes. They used iPad apps such as Night Sky and Moon to explore the sky in real time.

Kindergarten student Teresa Smith said her favorite subject to study about the sky is actually the sun.

“I love the sun,” Smith said. “It gives us light and helps us grow. I also like to study the stars and how they twinkle at night.”

Karen Mitchell, Jennifer Beasley and Brittney Sykes are Phil Campbell Elementary’s three kindergarten teachers and each believed the experience was beneficial to the students as well as the parents.

“Parents being involved in their child’s education is so important,” Mitchell said. “It is important for them to see what we do with their children on a daily basis and see why learning is fun to their child.”
“Space is something that really sparks a young child’s interest,” Beasley added. “What child doesn’t stare up into the night sky and look at the moon and stars at some point and dream? We try to make learning fun and practical all at the same time.”

Sykes demonstrated a constellation view students made out of Pringle’s cans.

“The kids really enjoyed making these constellation cans,” Sykes said. “All the while, they were learning about the constellations and the stars. We also try to make the experience interactive with the iPad apps. There are so many resources for young people to learn and we need to take advantage of them.”

Kindergarten student Wyatt Hunderman has already figured out space is cool and wants to be a part of it someday.

“I like astronauts,” Hunderman exclaimed. “They are the coolest things about space. They get to blast off in rockets into space. That’s what I want to do one day.”

Jackie Ergle, principle of Phil Campbell Elementary School, said she is grateful for wonderful students, teachers and parents.

“I am so thankful that we have parents that care about their child’s education,” Ergle said.

“Nothing helps a child succeed more than a parent who is deeply involved in their education and supports their efforts to succeed. Events like this are what will stick with them for many years because they came to school and participated in activities with mom and dad.”

There were serious issues on the minds of Smith, Hunderman and their fellow students as well – the planetary status of Pluto.

Back in 2006, the International Astronomical Union redefined what a planet was. That definition excluded Pluto. Pluto, however, is fighting back. At a recent debate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the audience voted that Pluto should regain its planetary status.

Pluto may not care about its status but these children sure do.

“I can’t wait for Pluto to be a planet again,” Smith said.

Hundermand, the ambitious future astronaut, said, “Pluto is the planet I want to go to.”

At a nine billion mile round-trip, he better pack a lot of snacks.


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