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Kids travel to the moon without leaving class
Eastside Elementary pupils take the virtual journey via a new distance-learning program being launched in the schools.
By Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer
Published February 12, 2008
BROOKSVILLE - It was a day for being impressed by distances.
At 12:30 p.m. Monday, first-graders at Eastside Elementary School sat down in front of the television for a lesson about the moon.
"If you left after school today, it would take you 30 years to walk to the moon," teacher Roger Storm told them, before posing a question. "How many of you think the moon is smaller than the Earth?"
Despite the fact that he was on TV and they were not, the kids raised their hands and answered him. The moon is much smaller, they said. Well done, he told them.
Even more impressive: Storm was sitting at the Glenn Research Facility, a NASA teaching center in Cleveland, while they sat in sunny Florida.
One month after the Hernando County School Board agreed to invest about $110,000 in distance-learning equipment, both for general classrooms and special-needs students who can't travel to school, the Eastside kids saw the first payoff with a virtual journey to the heavens.
In the space of a half-hour lesson, they talked about the dangers of looking straight at the sun.
They heard about the phases of the moon. They saw video of Apollo astronauts bounding across the lunar surface, and took Storm up on his invitation to hop up and down to test their own earthly weight.
"Do you know if you weigh about 50 pounds on the Earth, you'd only weigh about 9 pounds on the moon?" asked Storm, a former science teacher and full-time coordinator with the space agency's Explorer Schools Project. "You'd weigh as much as a baby!"
Then it was the kids' turn to ask questions.
"Have you ever been to the moon?" asked Abby.
"No," Storm answered. Only 12 people have gone.
But NASA was planning to send more astronauts moonward soon, maybe by the time these first-graders reach high school, he said.
"You guys keep studying math and science, okay?" Storm added, before signing off.
To Eastside teacher Kerri Littlefield, perhaps even more than for her students, the experience was mind-blowing. "They didn't get it at first, that you can talk back to the TV," she marveled. "Once they did, they had a blast."
Call it one small step for Eastside Elementary, one giant leap for Hernando County.