Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mr. Beutel Teaches Us About Space Spinoffs

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Mr. Beutel visited our classroom this morning to teach the children some things about space.  He brought "artifacts" from the space shuttle Discovery: a tile, a "blanket", and freeze-dried food.  Mr. Beutel showed the students a bicycle helmet and explained that the technology for a bicycle helmet came from an astronaut's helmet.  Some other spinoffs he told the children about:
  1. Velcro - astronauts' sleeping bags are velcroed to the walls of the shuttle so they won't float around in microgravity
  2. Tennis shoes - designed after the space boot technology
  3. Infrared thermometers (the kind you stick in the ear or rub across the forehead) - designed from the infrared instruments designed to measure temperatures in space
  4. Freeze-dried food
  5. Space blankets
Mr. Beutel told the children that he and his family had observed the International Space Station in last night's sky.  He said he will let us know the next time it will be visible in the night sky.

The children had many questions about gravity, about the makeup of the moon, to which Mr. Beutel answered very straight-faced, "Well, I believe I read on some blog last night that it was made of sugar."  (Hahahaha!)

We learned so many things, such as NASA is getting involved with private companies to develop "Space-liners" - spaceships that will take ordinary citizens into space as well as our astronauts; comets originate from a cloud that is located near to Pluto; we will have a spaceship arrive at Pluto in five years that has been traveling for six years so far. 

After Mr. Beutel's visit, the students and I developed a Circle Map with what we knew about space from the presentation.  The students really had learned a great deal! 

Thank you, Mr. Beutel! 

My interest in space goes waaaaayyy back.  My father worked with "missles" at Vandenberg AFB when I was a child, then at the Space Center during the Apollo days. In my early years as a teacher, I was prepared, like teachers across America, to conduct science experiments along with Christa Macauliffe as she conducted them from space.  Tragically, the Challenger exploded right before our eyes and that brought a screeching halt to the shuttle launches for two years.   

Later, when I taught gifted students, we studied Mars for a whole year through an integrated curriculum: Mysteries of Earth and Mars.  NASA was one of the sponsors of that curriculum that was started by Robert Ballard, the scientist/oceanographer who discovered the Titanic on the ocean floor.    During that same time frame, I applied to attend the Mars Educator's Conference held in Cocoa Beach and was accepted.  For a couple days I listened to one scientist or engineer after another describe the how the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter was going to map practically every square inch of Mars through high resolution and infrared cameras.  That was one INCREDIBLY FASCINATING conference!!!  In addition, I attended the Astronaut Memorial Foundation technology classes while studying to be an Educational Technology Specialist.  I was then contacted by the AMF to be a speaker at the unveiling of the 2nd shuttle license plate.  (See below.)  I had the extreme honor of meeting the late Columbia astronaut, Willie McCool's sister. The experience of speaking in front of every major network and radio station in the area was probably one of the highlights of my adult years.  

You could call me a space "geek". 

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