EPSC Students Shoot for the Stars in Spaceflight Experiments

 Students at Eastern Pulaski Schools are going above and beyond their studies – way beyond. As part of Avicenna Academy in Lake County’s Indiana State Science Education Consortium, Eastern Pulaski students in grades 5-8 will be participating in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Programs designed to utilize student’s information gained in the classroom and expand upon it through further research and investigation.

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Programs look to fully immerse 408 students in grades 5-8 in real microgravity experiment design and proposal writing, with a goal of at least 30 flight experiment proposals to be formally submitted by student teams, with one experiment to be selected for flight to the International Space Station.

Eastern Pulaski Schools’ STEM Coordinator and science teacher Darlene Gordon said the students are currently developing experiment ideas in competition with Avicenna Academy, whom they are competing against for the honor of having their experiment chosen to be conducted in space.

“Right now at Winamac, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students are coming up with ideas for an experiment, and once we get those ideas, we’re having the teachers flesh them out – put some deeper thought into them, making a good experimental design. We will select some of those experiments to be submitted for approval to be flown on the space station. Now, because this is the Indiana Science Consortium, we have another school that we partner with in Crown Point, and we will be challenging them for the position on the international space shuttle,” said Gordon.

Gordon said the schools would likely hear word on what experiment has been selected in the summer, after two review boards make their selections. Students participating in these projects seem to have benefited greatly from the experience; each student that participated in SSEP in the past became more efficient in research and 100 percent of them that took the ISTEP+ science test scored a pass+, the highest possible score on that assessment.

Gordon said the program is a phenomenal experience that provides students with a very important skill.

“I think it’s a great experience for our kids to learn how science is truly done,” Gordon said. “You come up with an idea, you develop that idea, you come up with an experiment, test that experiment, and look at the results. The scientific method is something people use every day; they may not call it by that name, they may not follow all the steps, but that’s what it is.

Unfortunately, a program so tremendous does not come without a cost; Avicenna Academy and Eastern Pulaski Schools must raise $21,500 to cover the expenses of the program. The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which oversees the SSEP, keeps none of the money; rather, the funds go to cover the expenses associated with conducting the experiment in space and the materials needed for the experiment and the control experiment on Earth.

So far, the schools have raised roughly $15,000, but still need to cover the $6000 expense. Gordon said the schools are seeking pledges from local businesses and organizations, but anyone interested in donating can call the middle school at (574) 946-6525, or email Gordon at gordond@epulaski.k12.in.us.