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This week Years 5 and 6 had a chance to demonstrate their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities to teachers, peers and parents as part of their Spectacular STEM Showcase.
Planning how to protect the astronauts who will explore Mars in the 2030s has been a stellar classroom activity for our Year 5 students, spurred on by a recent visit from a former senior scientist at NASA. Mrs Jacqui Cavaglia, a current Wenona parent, spent 20 years working at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Johnson Space Center in Houston. She spoke to the girls about her own research into space travel and was interested to hear about their research projects, which included: eating food in space; growing plants on Mars; the daily routine of an astronaut; and why it is important for astronauts to have a good sense of smell.
The students were thrilled to learn that Scott Kelly, the American astronaut who spent 11 months on the International Space Station, is a personal friend of Mrs Cavaglia. They were particularly fascinated to hear about Mrs Cavaglia’s trip on the “Vomit Comet”, NASA’s specially fitted aircraft that introduces astronauts to the feeling of zero-gravity spaceflight. It dips and climbs through the air to simulate the feeling of weightlessness in 20 to 25-second intervals. The downside is that the sudden change makes a lot of astronauts feel very, very ill, hence its name. For the record, Mrs Cavaglia did not vomit!
After weeks of research into the risk factors and challenges that play a role in space travel, the students presented their findings at the Spectacular STEM Showcase this week.
The students shared a galaxy of interesting facts about planetary exploration with their audience. For example, astronauts lose a lot of calcium essential to their bones in space, so they have to do up to two hours of exercises each day and eat a special diet.
Year 6’s flexible-thinking was on display at the Showcase with their experiments about ‘matter’. Over the past term, the students have been deeply engaged in experimental research on solids, liquids and gases. For the Showcase, the students collated their data and prepared static displays, including graphs, particle representations, photos and videos.
Some of the weird and wonderful experiments the students have been conducting include which activator makes the stretchiest slime?
Are expensive shampoos worth the extra money?
What type of chocolate melts fastest?
Which substance comes out the best with Vanish and why?
Science can be a messy business on the path to truth, but discovering more about ‘matter’ has captured the imagination and interest of every student.
Parents also had an opportunity to see Year 5’s incredible coding skills, with the girls presenting their interactive board games using Sphero technology.
Well done to the teachers and students in Years 5 and 6 for producing a truly Spectacular STEM Showcase!