SPACEPORT AMERICA

Third-graders take a trip to space(port)

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After spending a school quarter learning about science and space and participating in an art project with the Doña Ana Arts Council, two classes of third-grade students got to spend a day at Spaceport America in early June.

While at the spaceport, the students got to work with scientists, do experiments with marshmallows in a vacuum and launch miniature rockets. During their tour, they also got to see the emergency services center and hear from Virgin Galactic’s Emelie Woog.

“This is a culminating activity to the art and science project that we did.” said Monte Vista Elementary School third-grade teacher Brenda Sorensen. “The kids are having a blast at the science and arts. They have been so excited and so engaged. This is awesome.”

The students visited Spaceport America’s activity gallery and got to try out the centrifugal trainer, spinning around and upside down in a simulation of the training that pilots must undergo. Of course, the students were not subjected to nine times the force of gravity like pilots are.

“It was fast, and it made me dizzy,” said student Ashaya Potter. “But it was fun.”

Ashaya said she has learned a lot from the program “about planets and space and astronauts and what they do.”

Since 1996, the Doña Ana Arts Council (DAAC) and Las Cruces Public Schools (LCPS) have been members of the Kennedy Center Partners in Education (KCPE). The Las Cruces KCPE Team focuses on arts integration, an approach to teaching that leads students to demonstrate understanding through an art form.

This year, the team put together educational activities based on the Las Cruces Space Festival's virtual art show, “Dawn of Discovery.” The exhibition, which includes 90 pieces of artwork from 46 international and local artists reflecting the excitement of space exploration, was the jumping-off point for the 2021 Dawn of Discovery Arts Integration Project. The artists’ work reflects a working knowledge of the solar system, space exploration, art history and New Mexico iconography, making it and the artists incredible resources. 

The Arts Integration Project with LCPS was implemented during April and May 2021 to support Monte Vista Elementary School’s third-grade, fourth-quarter solar system unit and culminated with the students visit to the spaceport.

The team developed a series of enrichment and art activities that supplemented what the teachers were doing as well as demonstrating arts integration. The students created New Mexico symbol-inspired retablos on cardboard and spent time analyzing the “Dawn of Discovery” virtual art show, and the KCPE team threw in a game of Space Trivia at the end of the project.

“Encouraging students to develop an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through art is exciting,” said DAAC Program Manager and KCPE team leader Karen Conley. “Both art and science require inquiry, creativity and exploration to understand the world around us. The ‘Dawn of Discovery’ art show is a conduit for science and an incredible resource at the local level. These are the kind of opportunities educators and artists are looking to tap into because they demonstrate the connection between art and science.”

To see the “Dawn of Discovery”  art gallery, including some of the student artwork, visit lcspacefestival.com/gallery/.