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South Valley Journal

Providence Hall sixth-graders’ teamwork is 'out of this world'

Nov 07, 2018 03:29PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Students took on various roles of responsibility on the deck of a star ship simulation. (Kevin Rocque/Providence Hall Jr)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Sixth-graders from Providence Hall Junior High School experienced an out-of-this-world field trip when they visited the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center in Pleasant Grove. 

“I’m never going to be an astronaut, but it’s really cool to study,” said sixth-grader Grace Carter. “I don’t want to go up there, but I like to study it down on earth—that’s the safe way to do it.”

The learning experience wasn’t as safe as Grace expected. Students worked through realistic, life and death scenarios from the deck of a starship, complete with individual computer stations, flashing warning lights and an interactive main computer, which provided information and advice.

“The main goal was to try to keep your ship alive,” said Emersyn Visser, who played the role of captain in her simulation.

Students learned lessons of teamwork as they worked as a crew of ambassador, captain, pilot, engineer, communications, security and medical officer.

Sam Coleman, a sixth-grade teacher, said every student was given responsibility for a specific task. Their ability to work together to solve problems determined if they would successfully complete their mission. He said when students overstepped their role or neglected their duties, the mission was put in danger.  

“Ultimately, the captain has to decide what his crew is willing to sacrifice to solve real-life problems that Earth is currently facing,” he said.

Most teams failed and died. As time permitted, they were able to make additional attempts to successfully complete their mission. 

“We definitely learned from our mistakes,” said Grace, who was First Officer in her simulation. “The first time we were taking too long, we weren’t trusting that other people can make decisions.”

Her crew’s third attempt was successful.

“There were times in our quest where we had to make a decision that would affect if we lived or died,” said Grace. “Working together on the ship really helped us develop better friendships and better trust; if we didn’t trust them, we might not survive.” 

Ryan Keel, serving as captain of his crew, quickly learned how important it was for everyone to do his or her assigned job.  

“You really had to pay attention and not miss stuff or you would die,” said Ryan, who learned to depend on his First Officer to collect information from other team members before he made a decision.

Conner Christensen, also a captain, was overwhelmed during his first simulation.

“At some points, I was too stressed, and I couldn’t think straight,” he said. 

When simulations ended in failure, crews were allowed time to discuss what went wrong and to brainstorm alternative solutions. 

For their second attempt, Conner learned to trust his crew.

“I feel like they were able to do their positions correctly and make it so we were able to escape to the nebula,” he said. 

Coleman said the experience develops team work among students. 

“I like the simulations because everyone is involved,” he said. “One of our goals in teaching is to have students work together to solve problems. The space center is a great experience in that endeavor.”

Coleman’s science classroom facilitates teamwork by grouping students at tables instead of individual desks. 

“Science and engineering are done in community,” he said. 

The visit to the space center, housed in an Alpine School District elementary school, included a planetarium presentation that showed students up-close and detailed views of planets, star clusters and galaxies.

Aaron Collingridge said seeing the number of galaxies in the universe made him feel small.

The field trip has always been a highlight of the school year, said Kevin Rocque, another Providence Hall Jr. High School teacher. He said his students were still rehashing their simulations and their experiences in the planetarium weeks after the activity. 

“It just sticks in your brain because it was a really awesome experience,” said Emersyn.

Rocque hopes the students remember what they learned from their adventures, as it provides a great introduction to the sixth-grade science core, which teaches about the moon, solar system and objects in outer space.