Highcroft Elementary School is our Spotlight School of the Week
PROGRAM: Our Place In Space
Scientist: Cameron Gainey
3rd Grade: Our Place In Space
Do you know how many planets there are in our solar system? How about the number of moons that orbit the planet Jupiter? If you took a rocket ship to Neptune (my personal favorite planet), would you be able to land on its surface?
These are just some of the questions I posed to my Scientists this week as I taught Our Place In Space, a program that I’ve mentioned here before. It’s one of my favorites because, as its name implies, it allows me to paint the beautiful and immense picture of the tiny spot we occupy in our solar system, and the tiny spot that our solar system occupies in our galaxy–and the tiny spot this galaxy occupies among the billions of other galaxies! It’s amazing!!! Though this is a baffling concept even for me, an adult, the 3rd graders at Highcroft Elementary in Cary, NC, were incredibly curious:
What happens when you fall into a black hole? Is the sun ever going to blow up, and will we survive if it does? How do planets form? Does our solar system orbit in our galaxy, like the earth? Will we ever be able to land people on Mars? How big is the universe?
These are just a handful of the questions I received! Answering–or, in some cases, attempting to answer–these questions is thrilling, for their faces light up as I describe how one gets “spaghettified” when falling into a black hole, or how we’ll never know exactly how big the universe is because the speed of light only lets us see so far. They’re absolutely fascinated and totally wowed, and that’s inspiring for this Scientist. Since I was at Highcroft for three days in a row, I got to lead the entire 3rd grade class through this thought process. That makes for dozens of gasps and raised eyebrows!
Even though space is bigger than we can imagine, we also explored how it’s useful to us. For example, we get the length for our hour, day, month, and year from the orbits of the moon around the earth, and the earth around the sun. Additionally, we use the constellations in the sky for navigation, and observing these stars and their planets has helped us to understand our own place even better. We built a Sun Clock and a Constellation Map to remind of us these things, and to conclude the day we braved the cold and shot off water rockets to be like astronauts!
All in all, I enjoyed my adventures at Highcroft, and I can’t wait to return. Until next time!
– Scientist Cameron