Learn through experience.
It’s the motto of the two teachers who lead the Young Astronauts’ Club at the Wiesbaden Middle School. The students, a mix of sixth, seventh and eighth graders, couldn’t agree more.
“I wanted to try something new this year,” said eighth grade student Klarissa Ramon. “This (club) looked really fun and we’re always doing something different that I didn’t expect.”
Whether they are building rockets or researching life on Mars, students gain first-hand appreciation of science.
Science at Their Fingertips
Looking around Elaine Young’s classroom, there is no doubt she loves to challenge her students. The walls are lined with handmade rollercoaster models the students build and test over a 5-week period. There are volcano models along the counters and science facts and images along the walls.
“I like watching the kids figure things out,” she said.
The Young Astronauts’ Club, founded by Young when she arrived in 2012, meets weekly. Their current project, building sustainable housing on Mars, sprang from the mind of Club co-leader, Quinten Davis.
Club members do their own research and then build a shelter that will withstand the temperatures and wind that exists on Mars, said Davis, a math and English co-teacher and learning impaired specialist at the school.
“The club offers students a chance to explore science in a more relaxed environment,” he added. “There are no grades or tests to stress about. The anxiety about performing at a certain level isn’t here. It’s more social learning and getting a difference experience while doing science.”
Students used modeling clay, tubs from frosting, building bricks and hot glue as they created their shelters.
“We looked at the conditions and some NASA prototypes online before we started making our shelter with our twist on it,” said Hannah Buchheit, sixth grade. “We talked and worked out the details of what we needed together.”
The groups included green houses and reinforced structures to ensure their creations could survive in the harsh conditions of the Red Planet. Once the groups complete their structure, they will be tested with various tools, including leaf blowers to test for strength against high winds.
Space Camp Bound
Every year, Young seeks to share the love of space exploration and science with an extended field trip to the Euro Space Center in Belgium.
Students travel via charted bus for five days of hands-on learning and adventure. While the trip is usually reserved for eighth grade students only, this year it’s open to all participating students because the facility will undergo restoration during this time next year which will close the facility to groups.
“The students are always so excited for this trip,” Young said. “We have busy days there. The activities are really well planned out so we’re never bored.”
Students will participate in a mock space mission, anti-gravity simulations and additional activities during their stay. For some it’s their first trip away from their families, but most can’t wait to see what adventures await them.
“I want to try it all, everything they have available,” said Christian Thomas, eighth grade.
Extended trips like this are expensive, but make lasting impressions on the students. Teachers rely on grants from local branches of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), parent organizations, Wiesbaden Community Spouses Club (WCSC) and general fundraising efforts to help off-set costs.
This year, the Club raised funds at the St. Martin’s outdoor winter concert through the sale of handmade ornaments. The Club also received a $3,000 grant from the WCSC.
“We do our best to make these trips affordable for all students,” Young said. “We couldn’t do these without the help of our parents and community.”
Young plans to explore additional options for field trips next year and vary the weekly activities to keep it fresh for students who continue participation throughout their time at WMS.
Students will travel to the Space Camp April 28 to May 2nd.