Coral Gables

St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School students get close-up of moon surface


Special to The Miami Herald

Fourth grader Sealey Bacardi wondered how it would feel standing on the moon.

Fortunately for the 9-year-old St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School student, she doesn't have to travel there to find out.

In an effort to educate students like Sealey, her school was lucky enough to get a package on loan from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that includes a display of lunar rocks, soil and meteorites.

“I thought it was cool to see them,” Sealey said. “Before I had only seen them in pictures and videos.”

The items will remain at the school until mid-February. Much credit for the arrival of the rocks goes to Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) program teacher Barbara Gosney, who had to get a special certification to handle the precious cargo.

“You have to treat it carefully,” said Gosney, who had to attend a Space Exploration Educators Conference at the Johnson Space Center in Houston before NASA would send the lunar materials to the school.

“When I have them, I have to walk around with them in my possession. It is serious stuff.”

The STEM program, a nation-wide education effort to increase the passion and skills of science, technology, engineering and math, was launched at the school in August.

The rocks are important study tools that will provide hands-on education in the classroom, said Kris Matteson Charlton, head of the schoo.

“We want to embrace other ways to learn and that is starting with the STEM program,” she said.

The rocks are sealed in lucite and have information on which Apollo Space Mission collected them and what area of the moon each one represents. NASA also provided a curriculum.

Gosney's goal is that all 425 students get to see the rocks and soil.

So far, she has dedicated about 90 percent of her time to the study of moon rocks, soil and meteorites.

“Meteorites are shaved in between,” she said. “We get to see inside, which is interesting because you see the different patterns. It's special. We all get to see what is on the moon and what the different Apollo astronauts saw.”

Students at the Coral Gables school prepared for the arrival of the rocks by studying the moon using the Moon Globe app.

Andy Bru, 10, said he has learned more than just about the moon.

“I've learned they are really valuable,” Andy said. “You can just play with them and you have to take care of them.”

Gosney said having the items in the school will be a memorable experience for the students.

“They can get to see something that has played a part in U.S. history,” Gosney said.

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