A lunar learning experience

Fourth-graders at Lewis and Clark Elementary don’t have to visit the moon to see a moon rock.

Last week, Minot Public Children’s Librarian Paulette Nelson visited her granddaughter’s class to give youngsters an up close and personal view at the precious lunar stones. Nelson took part in a two-day NASA training session at Wallops Island in Virginia and watched the launch of the Ladee (which stands for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) rocket in September. Nelson received a grant that enabled her to take part in the training.

Throughout the fall, she has been sharing some of what she learned with the children at Lewis and Clark.

“Do you think the footprints of the astronauts are still on the moon?” Nelson asked the students.

“Yes,” replied one of the children.

“Yes, because there’s no wind up there,” said Nelson, so the 44-year-old footprints will be a lasting testimony to man’s visit to the moon.

Nelson helped the children learn about how the craters on the moon were formed with ordinary science experiments here on earth. Earlier in the fall, the kids lobbed water balloons to earth and then measured the impact of the impressions left behind.

Nelson said scientists believe that the moon formed from debris after the Earth crashed into another large planetary body during the formation of the solar system.

The moon rocks are so precious, said Nelson, that she had to agree to take special precautions with them such as keeping them in a secured location, before NASA would lend them out for her. The kids looked suitably impressed.

Nelson also explained how Ladee has been circling the moon and gathering data about the ultra-thin lunar atmosphere, environmental influences on lunar dust and conditions near the moon’s surface. The data scientists gather will help them learn more about other bodies in the solar system as well.

Ann Mueller, a fourth-grade teacher at Lewis and Clark Elementary, said the lessons on the moon fit in with the class’ studies of the solar system. Normally, the children would have learned this material during the spring, but she shifted the unit to the fall when Nelson asked to present the moon rocks to the class. Nelson’s granddaughter, Annika Henjum, is a student in Mueller’s class. Mueller was also one of Nelson’s high school classmates.

Nelson has also been giving similar presentations to children in the Minot Public Schools’ after school program when they met at the Minot Public Library.