The hallways and classroom at Mesita Elementary this summer have been blasted into outer space for a couple of weeks this month to celebrate the iconic 50th anniversary of the 1969 lunar landing by the United States.
Not literally, of course. The darkened instructional spaces are part of the Interstellar Summer Camp that for two weeks will invite students to learn more about space exploration and STEM concepts — in English, Spanish and even Mandarin Chinese.
“We are exposing our students to the technology and the newest research in outer space and giving them first-firsthand accounts of what real astronauts go through in order to train for space exploration,” said teacher Anaeva Rodriguez. “We’ve created activities for them that are very similar to what the astronauts go through at NASA.”
Black lights replaced the traditional fluorescent bulbs and black paper lined hallways in the camp area. Glow in the dark space creatures, planets and recordings from NASA kept the theme going throughout the hallways.
Coordinators of the program designed flexible and unique seating, glow-in-the-dark hallways, hands-on activities and other coursework with one goal in mind: to make the enrichment camp fun. In fact, in their effort to differ the camp from the traditional school day, the organizers decided not to assign homework.
“It’s summertime, and we know that kids want to stay home and relax or do other camps. So we wanted to bring them a whole different experience that starts with how they feel when they walk into the building and in the classroom,” said Mesita Assistant Principal Marcela Duran, the camp’s coordinator. “Every student gets to do some type of hands-on experience with different topics of space exploration in three languages – English, Spanish and Mandarin.”
Students from Mesita and eight other surrounding elementary schools were invited to the two-week camp.
Fifth-grader Arnav Tonde, already a NASA camp veteran, spent part of camp researching the Oort Cloud, a spherical shell of icy objects that exist in the outermost reaches of the solar system.
“I like to the projects Mr. (Pete) Delgado gives us because we get to work in teams and I get to interact with other people,” said Arnav, who plans to be either a computer engineer a doctor — or both. “It’s pretty fun, exciting and we’re learning a lot.”
Second-grader Evelyn Villanueva already enjoys observing the nights sky, the stars and planets. So, this year’s theme definitely caught her attention.
“I’ve been learning about space and new stuff I never knew,” she said. “I’m pretty excited because I think about space and it gives me ideas to be creative.”
Her fellow second-grader Grey Boyd from Bond Elementary enjoyed the chance to explore new languages, space and much more.
“I like that we get to do projects about space and learn about new things. I also like coming because there is free lunch.”