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Postcards from Space!

Astronomy, space travel and technology, astrophotography and moon bases!  All are topics teachers (and consequently their students) have explored through West Sound STEM Networks STEM Cafes, workshops and partnership programs.  One of WSSN’s newest partners, Blue Origin, carries postcards from students into space and back on their New Shepard rockets.  The postcards, decorated with student’s ideas, artwork and messages, are launched by the crew in a capsule that descends to Earth under parachutes after floating in space 100 kilometers above Earth.

They recover the postcards, stamp them with “Flown to Space,” and mail them back to students as keepsakes. 


WSSN coordinated participation in Blue Origin’s Postcards to Space program for students from Discovery Elementary School in Peninsula School District, John Sedgwick Middle School in South Kitsap School District, and West Hills STEM Academy in Bremerton School District.  The New Shepard NS-14 Mission carried more than 50,000 postcards to space from 13 countries, more than 350 schools in the U.S., and one from a British research station in Antarctica.  

Tides & Currents & Waves, Oh My!

Nearly sixty teachers attended the Northwest Maritime Center (NWMC) and West Sound STEM Network STEM Café: Tides & Currents on January 27th. Presenters Ace Spragg and Chrissy McLean of NWMC led an exploration of how tides and currents work, how we can predict them, why predictions aren’t always accurate and why they are not the same everywhere on Earth.

Teachers discussed how tides influence the weather, climate and ecology of the Salish Sea and how that knowledge helps in everyday life: how we use tides and currents for recreational activities or in the shipping and seafood industries. They explored connections to Maritime careers, learned how to use online tools and resources to better understand tides and currents and how to effectively apply this knowledge to STEM teaching.

Tides and currents exercises illustrated the effects of the moon’s gravitational pull and underwater topography and teachers interpreted nautical charts and calculated the scope (or angle) needed for effectively anchoring a boat. A repeat of the well-attended event is scheduled for March 18th.

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Fly Me to the Moon

West Sound STEM Network offered the first of two astronomy-based STEM Cafés to teachers this month— ”Artemis: To the Moon and Beyond!” NASA’s Artemis program, the “twin sister” to Apollo, will land the first woman and the next man on the moon’s South Pole by 2024. Using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before, NASA will establish a sustainable presence on the moon in order to prepare for continuing missions to Mars.

Teachers in the STEM Cafés explored the aspects of the program, took a deeper look into exciting new technologies being used by NASA and NASA resources that can be used with students. Also discussed was the new space station designed for the sole use of the Artemis program, Gateway, and the role it will play in the program. Said Café presenter Dave Stitt, “Teachers explored what a moon base might be like and calculated the length of a lunar day.” Answer: 28 Earth days long!

“We examined water resources at the moon’s South Pole as that water will play a major role in producing rocket fuel.” He explained the need to test the technology as this process would eliminate the need to transport fuel to the lunar station. “Successful tech on the moon will predict likely success for travel to Mars from the lunar station!”

Northwest Earth & Space Sciences Pathway

Another of the Network’s newest members expanded the “outer space experience” for students and teachers by connecting with teachers in the Northwest Earth & Space Sciences Pathway (NESSP) professional learning cohort. In NESSP sessions, Russ Glenn, Director of Education at Slooh, facilitates ongoing discussions to explore astronomy and the newest technology available for use with students. Launched in 2003, with four telescopes at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, Slooh now has a worldwide network of 15 robotic, mountaintop telescopes providing real-time viewing.  All of which can be remotely viewed and controlled by users. WSSN school districts received grant-funded teacher memberships to Slooh so that our region’s teachers can use the telescope network with their students in their classrooms and with remote learning.

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