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Playing and Learning

On Thursday, February 1, a total of 37 excited first graders accompanied by teachers and parents from St. Paul Lutheran School in Lakeland descended upon the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) to have some fun learning about the field of aviation and its connection to the universe.

Students were divided into three rotating groups where they participated in several rounds of aerospace-themed activities. Locations were set for the Planetarium in the Piedmont Aerospace Lab, the Aerospace Pavilion and Aerospace Discovery at the Florida Air Museum.

At the first stop, the portable dome shaped Planetarium not only created a lot of excitement for the students, but it stimulated their curiosity about what could be lurking inside the mysterious ‘Dome of Darkness.’

“The planetarium always generates a lot of excitement when I set it up,” said Richele Floyd, education director. “I do a lot of different programs depending on teacher requests and age of the students. The fact that it is portable enables me to present programs on and off site. My goal is to educate and spark the interest in aviation for young people.”

After Floyd’s introduction to stars, planets and constellations, the group wasted no time crawling inside the dome in search of cosmic wonders and mysteries of the universe.

Several adults visiting the Center expressed praise for ACE and its educational resources. Kimberly Burke, a teacher at the school, said, “This is my first trip and I love it because it is so interactive for the kids.”

Over at the Pavilion, handmade paper helicopters were soaring through the air as students listened to Early Bird Volunteer Kris Armstrong explain the functions of elevators, joysticks and ailerons on aircraft. Following her animated presentation, the students were encouraged to board different aircraft and take their very own imaginary flights.

Then, it was over to the showstopper ‘Stomp Rocket’ station where Early Bird Volunteer Judith Palma assisted the students in rolling, taping and embellishing rockets headed for nearby launch pads.

Once the rockets were stationary on the pads, simple hookups to hoses connected to plastic soda bottles started the official countdown. At lift off, the students stomped simultaneously on the soda bottles propelling their rockets high up into the sky.

After several launches, six-year-old student Vincent Lajeunesse could not hide his enthusiasm.

“This is so cool,” he said, setting up his last launch, “It is just great.”

Meanwhile, the Florida Air Museum was getting its share of future rocket scientists and pilots as Jayme Jamison, museum manager, directed an aircraft themed Scavenger Hunt and later demonstrated several museum aviation games designed to teach the principles of aviation.

Malcolm Duggan, a parent and longtime fan of the ACE campus, said, “I feel like this is somewhat of a hidden gem here in little ‘ole’ Lakeland. It is so hands-on and today has been a great time for the children. We will definitely be back many more times.”

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2018-02-08T19:20:46+00:00