HOUSTON — Three fifth-grade classes from West Ward Elementary School traveled to the Johnson Space Center on Thursday, touring the rocket displays, mission control and other exhibits.
This week, the school will host its 13th annual Space Week, with a dozen scientists and other guests scheduled to visit, as well as a competitive rocket launch, a family science night and other activities.
For fifth-graders at West Ward, October signals the culmination of an elementary school experience rich in science, space and discovery, school officials said.
Fifth-grader Jennifer Ramirez, a West Ward student since prekindergarten, walked out of the Space Center gift shop with a souvenir T-shirt, pleased with the long-awaited trip to the museum of America’s space program.
“I thought it was really cool how they organized all this history together,” she said of the series of spacesuits, rocket components and simulators that make up the Space Center.
“This is a tradition at our school,” she said. “It celebrates NASA. All the teachers get involved.”
Thomas Hart, in his second year as a fifth-grade teacher at West Ward, said the school’s connection to NASA is what attracted him to the campus.
“We do experiments in class and coming here helps them see some of the concepts we talked about,” he said. “They love the whole experience. This trip just gets them more excited.”
Leading into Space Week, students design and build rockets, which they will launch through air compression during a competition this week.
They also hear from professionals in space-related fields. This year’s schedule includes Jeff Greason, CEO of Xcor Aerospace, a space transportation company.
“Space Week is a great opportunity for our kids,” Hart said. “It opens an area to them they may not have thought about.”
Many students on the Space Center trip watched an entertaining presentation that included an antacid-powered rocket, an expanding marshmallow man and nitrogen-hardened flowers.
Some students also toured Rocket Park, with a Saturn V rocket that filled a warehouse and authentic rocket engines from space program initiatives.
In the main visitor center, students tried out a series of medieval era ball bearing machines made from drawings by inventor Leonardo da Vinci with similarities to spacesuit ball bearings.
“I think it was really great,” Janeshia Anderson said. “We learned about space.”