Orange County students participate in global space education initiative

Thousands of students at Orange County School recently took a trip to space – sort of.

The district participated in a global education initiative that brought the Last Frontier home a step closer to increasing student engagement.

“When I saw this huge sign outside that looked like a spaceship, I was like ah,” said Ella Marie Chartier of Killarney Elementary. “But when I looked in my room when I came back from the announcements, I was like [shocked]. ”

From rockets to astronauts, no space-themed detail has been spared.

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“I like to make it an experiment,” said Adair Ziebarth, kindergarten teacher at Killarney Elementary School.

The school was one of 66 in the district who participated in an education initiative called “Rock Your School” which is rolled out in all 50 states. Although the decorations are cool, the teachers explained that it is really about what the students learn.

For example, what is a light year? Or even understand the structure of sentences when writing about the constellations.

“We read the Apollo 8 space mission. We learned first and second hand accounts,” Chartier added.

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“Hands-on activities – it’s very beneficial for their learning,” said Lauren Jordahl, a fourth-grade teacher.

These types of large hands-on activities were virtually non-existent for many students around the same time last year when school staff said only about 30% of Killarney elementary students were enrolled in traditional learning in due to COVID-19. A national report from research firm McKinsey and Company found that some students across the country may have finished the school year four to five months late, even with the district’s best efforts to overcome the challenges of learning.

“We talk a lot about these learning gaps, especially because of the pandemic. Things like this really help us motivate kids,” Ziebarth told FOX 35.

“I find that my students are competent in their end-of-unit evaluations,” Jordahl added.

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With the Space Coast right in their backyards, teachers said it also reminds students that they can work in industry as well.

“Exposing them to a lot of different careers. We hear kids saying all the time that I want to do this or that,” Ziebarth said. “I can guarantee that after today some children will say, ‘I want to be an astronaut.’

Another really interesting part of this experience included a live Q&A with all the students in the school and an astronomer.

Watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest news from Central Florida.

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