NASA has been visiting Moton Elementary School through the magic of technology in Juretta Carr's science resource classroom for the past few weeks. Classes have been taking turns coming to the science lab, using the video computer program Skype to communicate with NASA representatives. Victoria Jasztal's fourth-grade class visited the lab to work on their topic, "Our Planet Earth," and students met with NASA Digital Learning Network coordinator Roger Storm.
The children could see Storm, and he could see them. They interacted as if he were right there in the room, though he was actually at the Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland.
Storm spent the next 30 minutes answering questions and telling the students interesting things, such as the number of satellites NASA has orbiting Earth: 3,000. Only 550 of them are working, though, probably because of dead batteries or broken parts, he said.
The satellite photos Storm showed the children were the biggest hit. The children got overhead looks at Hurricane Katrina, a fire in Mexico, an erupting volcano, the pyramids in Egypt, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and New York City.
Storm showed the students a comparison between South American rain forests in 1973 and how denuded the land looked 30 years later, as farms replaced the trees.
He showed shots of Japan before and after this year's devastating earthquake and tsunami, and how an Antarctic ice shelf broke as a result of the water movement 8,000 miles away.
Satellites, Storm said, can even track animals, such as sea turtles, seals, sharks, crocodiles, lizards and penguins.
Afterward, some of the children shared their favorite parts of the lesson. Leonard Sampson, 10, said he liked "that they put tracking devices on animals, and it tells NASA where the turtles are going."
Fabian Burnett, 10, said his favorite part was "when you could see the volcanoes from space and you could see when the rivers got empty," referring to seeing the Mississippi draining into the Gulf of Mexico.
Said Scarlet Walsh, 9: "I really enjoyed learning about the volcanoes and the satellites."
Her twin, Madison Walsh, was so enthralled that she took a lot of notes.
"I liked talking to the man and learning stuff," she said, "so I wrote all this for my mom."