Children reach for the stars

SEVENTY primary school children took part in a ‘virtual visit’ with NASA via videolink as part of the Primary Integrating Enriching Education Project (PIEE) on 15th March. They were from primary 5, 6 and 7 at Armoy Primary School, Straidbilly Primary School, St Olcan’s Primary School and Barnish Primary School and ‘visited’ Dr. Prasun Desai in Washington and a primary school in New York.

Dr. Desai was the NASA Langely Lead for the Mars Exploration Rover mission that successfully landed the rovers ‘Spirit’ and ‘Opportunity’ on Mars in 2004 and the Mars Phoenix Lander in 2007.

The video link was from Armoy Primary School. The principals of the four schools came up with the idea as part of the PIEE project which focuses on curricular development in the areas of The World Around Us, Personal Development and Mutual Understanding and The Arts.

Principal of Armoy Primary School Mrs Julie Neill said,”We wanted to organise a videolink because we had been learning about space and the planets. Furthermore, we thought the physical and aspirational aspect of ‘reaching for the stars’ was very poignant. I contacted the education sector of NASA and e-mailed Dr. Desai many times before the the videolink so he knew exactly what we wanted him to discuss. He did a 3D presentation followed by a question and answer session. It was outstanding because in spite of being a highly intelligent man, Dr. Desai spoke at a level all of the children could understand.”

“The three way presentation lasted for one and a half hours. We were able to see the primary school in New York do the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States. It was brilliant.”

Mrs Neill added,”As principal of Armoy Primary School, the most rewarding part of the experience was seeing the powerful impact Dr. Desai had on the children. They hung onto his every word and were ‘buzzing’ at the end of the videolink. In terms of education they gained an enormous amount, however it was the confidence he instilled in the children which impressed me most. He emphasised that they should ‘think big’ in terms of their dreams and ambitions because they deserve to be as successful as everybody else.”

“The children thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, especially the question and answer session. Dr. Desai was happy to answer every question and more than one month later, they continue to repeat his mantra ‘think big’.”

“He reinforced that although they go to a small country school, it should not define their limits to achieve extraordinary things in the future. It was a wonderful, inspiring day.”