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Winfree Bryant Aviators soar into space (with video)

By Kimberly Jordan kjordan@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 7:03 PM

Students at Winfree Bryant Middle School got the opportunity of a lifetime Tuesday, speaking with Astronaut Reid Wiseman aboard the International Space Station.

Science teacher Tammy Sheppard, who is also the advisor for the school’s rocketry team, has worked with NASA since 2010 and submitted a proposal to the administration asking for the opportunity.

“This is just so amazing,” said principal Becky Kegley. 

She also commended the students on their hard work leading up to the big day.

“You have done a fantastic job with your research,” she said.

Each student was asked to write an essay on what question they would ask an astronaut and why. The students whose questions were selected each took a turn at the microphone to relay their question to the space station.

Ethan Crowell asked if the astronauts had ever brought bugs into space. The astronaut told him yes, they had fruit flies and snails. When asked about the experience after the broadcast, Crowell said he was “very excited” to have been chosen and he asked that question because “I was thinking about things that fly and how they would act in space.”

Fellow student Alex Faircloth said he was “shocked.” 

“I didn’t expect to get picked,” he said. 

He said he was nervous because “I’m not used to standing in front of crowds.”

McKenzie Carlton and Emma Claire Minter both said they were “excited and nervous” to ask their question to Wiseman.

Following the broadcast, Michael Wright with the Wilson County Amateur Radio Club told the students, “I hope today has inspired you to take very seriously math and science courses.”

Sheppard expressed her appreciation for all those involved in making the event a reality.

“I’m thankful we got [all the questions] in before they passed over,” she said. 

The window of opportunity Tuesday was from 11:12-11:22 a.m. to connect with Wiseman and the astronauts aboard the ISS flying 250 miles above the earth. 

According to Kegley, anticipation brewed throughout the last several weeks at Winfree Bryant as space station history and mission control were the emphasis of the school’s newsletters, hallway bulletins and daily announcements.  Also, teachers across varying content areas have incorporated lessons regarding space, astronomy, NASA and the ISS into their subject curriculum.  

The event was made possible through Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, a cooperative venture among NASA and other international space agencies that coordinates scheduled radio contacts between astronauts aboard the ISS and schools. 

Kegley said a school-wide study of NASA and the International Space Station took place in every classroom, in every grade level, every day for the past two weeks. ARISS and Teaching From Space, a NASA education office, encouraged participating schools to lay such groundwork as part of its goal to instill interest in science, technology, engineering and math subjects and careers among students.

The ARISS radio contact is one in a series with educational activities in the U.S. and abroad to improve teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is an integral component of Teaching From Space, a NASA Education office. The office promotes learning opportunities and builds partnerships with the education community using the unique environment of human spaceflight. 

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