A Home Run for Education
For about 21,000 students, it was an exciting day at the ballpark.
An astronaut threw out the first pitch, the crowd got to see a space shuttle launch in a way no one had before and, to cap it all off, the home team won!
This year, for the first time, NASA participated in School Day at the K, an educational program about weather for students in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa organized by the Kansas City Fox affiliate WDAF. The annual event is held at Kauffman Stadium and includes a Kansas City Royals baseball game.
Ollie Bogdon, the Missouri NASA Education Specialist for Kansas City, organized the agency's participation in the 2008 event, which marked the 10th anniversary of the partnership between WDAF and the Royals. The television affiliate created the event to inspire area students to learn more about weather. NASA's involvement supported the agency's goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
"Things went fantastic," Bogdon said. "It was an amazing event. Everyone had a great time."
Bogdon took advantage of the agency's unique excitement to inspire students' (and teachers' and parents') interest in technical disciplines.
Astronaut Clay Anderson, who is from Ashland, Neb., was on hand to throw out the first pitch. Anderson spent five months in space in 2007 on the International Space Station. He also spoke to students and media in the area before the event.
"Clay was wonderful about trying to get students interested in math and science," Bogdon said, explaining that it was particularly inspiring to the students to see someone who had grown up in their area and gone on to become an astronaut. "It doesn't matter where you come from; anyone can do it if they do their best."
If it's possible to top the excitement of a personal appearance by an astronaut, Bogdon and the School Day at the K organizers may have done it -- showing a space shuttle launch in a way never seen before.
A large screen was used to show high-definition footage of a recent shuttle launch at an unprecedented size. The experience was enhanced by the fact that the sight of the launch was matched by the sound. The stadium's sound system allowed the game's 34,000 attendees to actually feel the vibration of the shuttle's engines.
"The Royals stadium has the largest HD screen in the world," Bogdon explained. "With the sound effects and the sound system and the view, it was nice. It was an amazing sight and sound to feel."
In addition to watching the space shuttle on the big screen, students were able to get a close-up idea of what the shuttle looks like, thanks to a 1:15 scale model displayed in the parking lot.
Educational activities allowed students to get hands-on with science concepts. The "How High Is It" activity used a scale model of the Earth-moon system to give students an idea of the size of Earth's atmosphere and the altitude of the International Space Station. In the "3, 2, 1, Pop" activity, students made simple rockets with film canisters and effervescent tablets.
"That was definitely a hit, anytime you can launch something," Bogdon said. "They had a great time." She added that not only were the activities popular with the thousands of students who were able to do them, parents and teachers were also excited to learn that instructions for those activities and many more were available in NASA's free educator resources. These resources are available through the NASA Education Resource Centers and online through the NASA Web site.
Bogdon said that the weather focus of the event allowed her to present a different side of NASA that many attendees had never seen, breaking out of the "space program" stereotype.
"You don't think of all of the other aspects of NASA that fit into our daily lives," she said. "I'm not a space nut. My favorite planet is Earth. That's been a really fun message to deliver and open up people's eyes to NASA being more than just space."
It was also rewarding, Bogdon said, to tell teachers about the Missouri NASA Education Specialist project, which is unique to the area. Through the four-year-old project, six education specialists travel to schools, training teachers and providing inspiring "wow" activities for students. "It was a nice opportunity to get the word out about our program."
All in all, Bogdon believes the event and NASA's participation were a huge success. "It was really a wonderful 10th anniversary in that respect," she said. "It's just a wonderful way for us to reach such a vast number of students from the four-state area."
With the Royals' 8-4 win over the Detroit Tigers, the great day ended in a great way. "The Royals won, which is always a bonus," Bogdon said. "School Day seems to have a good trend of getting the Royals to win."
Missouri NASA Educator Specialists →
Astronaut Clay Anderson Receives the Royal Treatment →
NASA Education Web Site →
Clay Anderson →
David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services