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Live Conversation with Astronaut Shane Kimbrough



Nantucket may be a small island thirty miles off the coast of Massachusetts, but the educational opportunities that it provides for the community reach much farther.  On Thursday, December 15, students and viewers from all over the Island traveled 270 miles into space to the International Space Station for a conversation with Astronaut Shane Kimbrough through an interactive live broadcast.

This project came about through the creativity, resourcefulness, and hard work of two teachers at the Nantucket New School.  Last year Lisa Solomon and her second grade class watched another school’s downlink of NASA TV.  Both Lisa and her students were excited by what they saw.  Intrigued by the possibility of providing this opportunity for her students, Lisa did some research and discovered that she could write a proposal to NASA for the chance to have her students chosen to participate in a live downlink event.  Since both the second grade and the fifth grade study units on Space, Lisa partnered with fifth grade teacher Rachael Sullivan to make this dream a reality.

In this truly “out of the world” experience, each second and fifth grade student had the opportunity to ask a question to Astronaut Kimbrough.  The questions were wonderful—just the questions we all have but might not really ask.  Students wanted to know if is was hard to sit for so long on the two-day journey to the space station, if the astronauts ever got bored, how the rocket can find the space station, what astronauts ate and if they liked the food, and if they ever had disagreements with the other astronauts aboard the station. We all know that life on the Space Station is extraordinary, but it was remarkable to hear how ordinary life is as well--even on a space statin orbiting the earth 15.54 times a day from 270 miles above us.  One student ask about Kimbrough’s worst experience on the station, and he replied, “When the bathroom broke.”  The same could be said in our house! 

This event was not limited to the New School, however.  The entire Nantucket community, along with students from other schools on the Island, were invited to watch the broadcast. The fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students from The Nantucket Lighthouse School watched the event from the Nantucket Hotel along with other Nantucket residents.  The New School parents watched from the Great Room at the Nantucket Athenaeum and the New School campus.  The event was covered by Cape Cod publications as well as a number of Island publications.

Lavish refreshments were provided by The Green and the Nantucket Hotel provided space for a great many community members. 

People who summer here may imagine that winter is intellectually and culturally barren, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The winter is filled with unique and rich events such as this.  The weather may be cold, but the Island is warm and alive with art, music, drama, and film.

**Apologies for the side ways picture, but I would not get it to come up correctly despite numerous tries.  Finally I decided that since there is no "up or down" in space, this was appropriate and just went with it!