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Fifth Graders Complete Space Mission
Fair Oaks students take charge at Mission Control during their recent fifth grade class visit to the Challenger Learning Center in Sacramento. - photo by Greg Lawless/The Leader

A trip to Sacramento turned out to be a simulated trip to outer space recently for fifth graders at Fair Oaks Elementary School.

The school’s three fifth grade classes, taught by Danny Rogers, Michelle Danner, and Niki McCoy, each took separate field trips in late March and two days in April to the Discovery Museum Science and Space Center in Sacramento, which was paid for by the Parent Teacher Club.

“We participated in a one-and-a-half-hour space simulation called Rendezvous with a Comet,” teacher Rogers reported. “It is a program sponsored by NASA, created after the (Challenger) shuttle disaster in 1986.”

“The kids loved it,” added teacher McCoy. “It teaches them science, technology, teamwork, communication, math, listening, speaking, reading, computers…”

The point of the experience is to “complete” the mission of the Challenger space shuttle. Students have to perform specific tasks in order to achieve that. Rogers noted that the students are always very interested and excited while they are there.

“The students are separated into teams with different tasks to complete,” Rogers explained. “Half of the time the students are in ‘mission control’ and half the time they are in the ‘space shuttle.’ Their mission is to build a probe and launch it into Halley’s Comet to do tests on the comet.”

“They take their job so seriously,” McCoy said. “Everyone’s job is important for the mission.”

Rogers said the trip was the end of a unit where they study space and scientific experimentation. McCoy added that the experience covered California fifth grade learning standards and also new Common Core standards.

“This is my 15th year going to the Challenger Learning Center, although we used to go to the center in Atwater, at what used to be the Castle Learning Center (at) Castle Air Force Base; however, they went out of business this year, so we tried the museum in Sacramento,” Rogers said. “It is an expensive trip, but our PTC has graciously paid for us to go each year.”