Virtual Field Trip With NASA!

March 01, 2009 | Shelley Bacon

To reach out to their community, the Colville Valley Junior Academy is providing several virtual field trips on space and other science topics. The first one, held Jan. 16, attracted 22 guest students and 10 parents, with 11 students from the community. Dean Edwards, ninth- and tenth-grade teacher, has been the one to put together the field trips. Prior to this first one, he trained students on using the air-traffic control simulators so they could help their guests.

The first field trip was with Greg Pitzer, NASA scientist, who was "connected" to the classroom via a video-conference camera. The highly interactive session was about how air-traffic controllers use proportional reasoning and distance-rate-time relationships to get airplanes to their destinations safely and on time. Students were able to try their hand at getting three different airplanes to Modesto, Calif., without "crashing" or taking too long to arrive.

Pitzer also discussed the math behind the air-traffic controllers' decisions to have pilots change speed or direction before having the students try other flight patterns, and even create their own flight-pattern simulation.

Other virtual field trips are planned for this year, including two back-to-back virtual tours of NASA's Kennedy Flight Center, the first one geared for the lower grades (K–4) and the second one for upper grades (5–10).