on December 5, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on Wheat Ridge students talk to NASA astronaut in space

Wheat Ridge students talk to NASA astronaut in space

Instead of calling Houston to check in with Earth, Comdr. Shane Kimbrough, a NASA astronaut on the International Space Station, called Wheat Ridge High School.

For 20 minutes on Nov. 18, about 400 students, parents and community members sat in the school auditorium and listened as Kimbrough answered student questions in zero gravity, more than 200 miles above earth.

“It’s a pleasure to be here with you,” Kimbrough told the students.

He launched to the station on Oct. 19 and will return home in February.

The call was part of the NASA Office of Education’s efforts to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning in school.

“This is one of the most exciting educational opportunities to be a part of,” Principal Griff Wirth said. “We try to provide different things to our students than most schools do.”

Wheat Ridge, which has been developing its STEM program over the past three years, has a Shades of Blue program that provides information on careers in the STEM field. When Wirth heard about the opportunity to connect students with an astronaut, he thought it would be a perfect fit. Teachers at the school have been preparing students by incorporating space into lessons in each of their core classes.

Students in the school’s STEM classes were invited to watch and submit a question for selection.

“I heard about the opportunity to ask a question, and thought it was one of the coolest things,” junior Casey Kramer said. “It was really exciting to be able to step up and ask Cmdr. Kimbrough a question.”

About 19 students asked questions during the call, and the subjects were wide ranging. Kramer asked Kimbrough which potential dangers of space travel scared him the most. Freshman Max Harris asked about the biggest challenges of space travel, and junior Jacqueline Pedlow asked Kimbrough to share some of the funniest moments.

“We always have a lot of fun during meal time,” Kimbrough said. “We toss the food around and catch it in our mouths.”

The conversation ended with mutual wishes for a happy and safe Thanksgiving, before Kimbrough treated the audience to a zero gravity somersault.

“I don’t know if you all got the same chills I did during that,” Congressman Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado’s 7th District, which includes Wheat Ridge, Arvada, Lakewood and Westminster, said after the call. “To all the students, thank you –; you did your school proud.”

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