Jacobson Elementary rocketeers back in action - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Jacobson Elementary rocketeers back in action

December 8th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Jacobson Elementary rocketeers back in action

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Jacobson Elementary School was able to shoot off hundreds of rockets just before the world was mostly shut down by the pandemic in March 2020.

The skies above the school have been mostly rocket-free since then as the school’s Space Explorers program was suspended.

That won’t be the case this spring.

About 400 rockets will be blasting off to mark the return of Explorers.

“I started talking to Kira (Nunemaker) … and Nathan (Perry), who run this program,” said Liz Wolf, the principal at Jacobson. “I said, ‘I don’t want to let this go. This has a huge impact for our community.’”

For one school day each month, about 400 Jacobson students give up their play time during lunch to attend a Space Explorers meeting. The school has classes for each grade, with two volunteer parents teaching them about space.

The older classes get to learn from experts – volunteer engineers from Northop Grumman.

Eventually, after they learn the basics, each student in the program will get a rocket. They assemble it (with supervision) and get to name it. The older the student is, the bigger the rocket they get.

Then, with expert supervision, they get to launch their rockets to celebrate the end of the year for the program.

“We worked with volunteers at the end of last year, and now this club has 400 kids again, and is stronger than ever, which is such a testimony to a good community school with a supportive community and wonderful volunteers,” Wolf said.

Nunemaker coordinates the parent volunteers. She’s a former teacher and also teaches some of the classes. Perry coordinates the Northrop Grumman volunteers, usually getting more than a dozen engineers to agree to come and teach a class.

The first meeting was in October and focused on gravity. In November, first graders got to experience what it’s like to work in space. They had to put on some garden gloves and then some latex gloves over that. They were then instructed to try and pick up some tiny beads.

They also were able to put on a space helmet, then made their own helmets out of paper plates.

“It’s an amazing program,” Nunemaker said. “It’s a lot of work we’re working through. It has been dormant for years. So we’re trying to figure out what works with time during the kids’ lunch, how do you adjust the lesson to them eating and being able to watch and then also being able to take something home and do.”

Wolf said the program is popular, which is why more than half the 727 students enrolled at the school are in the program.

The principal said there is more interest among students in lower grades, and there is a drop-off as students get older. They develop other interests and the thrill of setting off a rocket loses some appeal when they’ve already done that a few times.

After the program started back up, some of those who hadn’t registered had a change of heart.

“After the first session, I had kids just wanting to come in who had just registered,” Nunemaker said. “I had parents reaching out. Like they’re missing outside time to do this and I’m loving it. I mean, it’s one day a month and they’d rather be in here doing activities and stuff.”