ifth-grade students at Highland Park Elementary had an out-of-this-world opportunity to hang out with NASA on Wednesday.
They were one of 25 classrooms nationwide chosen to participate in a live videochat with an astronaut at Johnson Space Center, who explained how the Gateway—the envisioned moon-to-Mars space station—will work.
Teacher Carmelya Vaughn facilitated the videochat with the excited students, who learned the specifics on the Gateway and what is involved in its construction. It will be placed between the moon and Mars and serve as a docking station, where astronauts will stay on their long journey to the Red Planet.
Vaughn is one of four TISD teachers to participate in a one-week NASA educational training this past July. She said this was a unique and inspirational event for the students.
"They don't have a whole bunch of different opportunities to see something like this in Texarkana," she said. "Most of the students who grow up in the Highland Park area or smaller areas in Texarkana, they don't get exposed to NASA. They may see videos and movies about something space-related, but they don't get to see the other critical parts and they don't get to see the jobs that allow them to be able to do that. It's a lot of exposure for them."
After the videochat, she encouraged the children to reach for the stars themselves.
"To be an astronaut, you've got to have some of those engineering skills as well," she said. "When you think about going to middle school, start looking into some of those STEM programs, as well. You've got to have your math and your sciences to a T. You're going to have to work at it."
In the future, Vaughn said she will continue to work with students to help them learn more about the Gateway.
"I have some kits I got from NASA this summer," she said. "The kids are going to build rockets. They're also going to be able to build spacecraft and build safety features from this. They'll also have rockets, different kinds. anything to show them the structure that's going to get them there."
For more information on the Gateway program, go to nasa.gov.