Posted By: Brenda Gift
Organization: Challenger Learning Center of Lake Erie West
From the Toledo Blade: If NASA is serious about its mission to land humans on Mars by 2035, it may want to ask a few of the students from Wayne Trail Elementary School in Maumee for assistance.
Fifth graders Taylor Lewis, left, and Alexandria Ybarra parachute a scientific payload down to the planet surface of Mars at Wayne Trail Elementary in Maumee. This was part of Maumee’s STEM curriculum.
THE BLADE/LORI KING
Fourth and fifth graders in the gifted and talented program attempted Friday to land homemade vessels on a large map of Mars that took up nearly half the gymnasium floor. Students constructed Mars landers using balloons and other materials.
Groups picked out a spot on the Red Planet and dropped their lander from a ladder. The goal was to avoid flipping over upon arrival, signaling a successful “landing” for the payload, and collect data.
“Their payload was a marble, so that was the overall safety they needed to land,” said Danielle Pickle, elementary gifted and talented teacher. “They were very creative the way they did it. Everybody’s was a little different.”
The Mars landers were affixed with coffee filters acting as parachutes.
Fourth grader Logan Simok, 10, said his group was able to land safely.
“We put three balloons together with bubble wrap and a bunch of coffee things,” he said. “We knew the balloons would slow it down and we needed the weight to even it out.”
The gifted and talented students have science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, activities each Friday outside of the normal school day.
Fifth grader Andrew Balcerzak, 11, said he enjoys the hands-on learning.
“It’s fun because we get to figure out how things slow down or speed up,” he said. “We figure out drag and lift. So it’s fun to figure out how all these things work.”
The experiment was in conjunction with the Challenger Learning Center of Lake Erie West. The Buzz Aldrin ShareSpace Foundation supplied the detailed map of Mars, the only one of its kind in Ohio.
Ms. Pickle said STEM is a critical piece of education.
“Students know they’re in a safe environment where it’s OK to make mistakes,” she said. “They really grow themselves by learning what they need to fix and being able to use that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics all together.”