A handful of fifth-graders at East Quogue Elementary School are questioning the mysteries of the universe: How did the moon form? Why can’t rocket ships travel farther than Mars? Is there other life out there? What goes on inside black holes?These students are hoping to have these and many more questions answered over the next six weeks as they learn and experiment in the newly formed Astronomy Club.
“Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to go to space,” Jadyn Kass, a club member, said last Thursday afternoon, November 20. “I’ve always been interested in the stars, too.”
Jadyn and five other fifth grade students meet once per week after school. The club, funded by a portion of the $50,000 donated to the Central Avenue school’s science program by Kevin and Lynn Crowe, will run for six weeks during the winter months.
“We’re covering a different topic each week,” said Jen Luckinghan, club adviser and first grade teacher. “Our first week was focused on asking all of the questions that we’re going to try to answer over time.”
Students also made a model of the solar system out of PlayDoh and telescopes out of cardboard tubing and plastic bags.
“We also got to see how it would look if we were doing fly-by missions and orbiting missions,” Dan Stark, another member of the club, said.
At their second meeting, students learned about the moon’s surface and cycles. Ms. Luckinghan asked the students to hypothesize about what would happen if different objects with varying densities struck the moon’s surface.
She and the students each created a model made of chocolate pudding to represent the moon’s surface and treats including M&M Minis, strawberries and marshmallows to represent objects that could make contact.
Students predicted the marshmallow, because it was large, would make the biggest dent in the pudding. They were surprised that the mini M&M sank lowest in the mixture, but they soon realized that that was because of the tiny object’s density.
After their afternoon treat, the children learned about the cycles of the moon, which they will track over the next two weeks in a moon observation journal, as well as theories about how the moon itself was formed.
“I have a hypothesis,” interjected Carolina Pondo, an enthusiastic member of the club. “I think that because we learned that indigenous rocks form by hot magma heating and cooling, and then we just found out that the moon is indigenous rock, that something hit the Earth and forced the rock to split off and become the moon.”
Students will continue to hypothesize and test their theories as they pertain to each topic discussed over the club’s six-week lifespan.
“It’s incredible to see what these kids come up with,” Principal Robert Long said after Carolina’s explanation. He also noted that next year, he plans to expand the club to include students in multiple grade levels. This year, he wanted to test the club with fifth-graders so that the club will have returning members next winter.
The students in the Astronomy Club asked questions for the entire hour last Thursday afternoon. Mr. Long and Ms. Luckinghan said they hope students never stop questioning and theorizing, even if some of the questions can’t be answered yet.