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In long-standing tradition during Space Week, firefighters with Madison Fire and Rescue Department brought a ladder truck to Horizon Elementary School to help with the ‘balloon re-entry’ experiment. CONTRIBUTED

Firefighters abet Horizon students’ experiments during Space Week

MADISON – Horizon Elementary School’s student body conducted experiments for heavenly bodies during Space Week on May 10-14.

Horizon PTA worked with Gifted Specialist Elizabeth Bero to plan fun activities for all grades. Kindergartners with PTA volunteers Betsy Allison and Katy Brown launched film canisters with Alka-Selzer tablets. First-graders listened to a constellation story by Bero and then created their own constellation pictures and stories.

Second-graders built UFO disc flyers for rounds of disc golf. In third grade, students witnessed a presentation by PTA President Leigh McMillan about propulsion, using Mentos and cola. Fourth-graders held paper airplane contests.

Consuella Datcher’s fifth-grade science students used recycled materials to build ‘water balloon re-entry protection devices.’ The objective was to build the smallest, most lightweight construction but prevent the water balloon from bursting when dropped. Students applied classroom study about parachutes and motion.

In initial testing, students dropped their devices from atop the tallest playground slide. Devices that survived qualified for final experimenting.

For finals, Captain Ennis and firefighters from Madison Fire Department brought a ladder truck to campus and dropped the finalists’ devices from the extended ladder. Students Madisyn Hankins and Sianna O’Reilly made devices that protected their water balloons even when dropped from a height of 73 feet, Bero said.

Bero’s work with Horizon’s Space Week started when her oldest daughter was in kindergarten in 1997 and Bero worked for NASA in Education/Public Outreach. Bero started teaching at Horizon as Gifted Specialist in 2003 and has coordinated Space Week for 24 years.

Since 1998 (except in 2020 due to COVID-19), she has used a portable planetarium from Woodmen of the World Insurance Agency. In 2020, Bero recruited guest lecturers from NASA and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

“This year, we were fortunate to be attending school and participate in PTA-run activities,” she said. Post-COVID-19 in 2022, she hopes that assembles for NASA, Von Braun Astronomical Society and Huntsville Area Rocketry Association can return.

For Science Week 2021, PTA President Leigh McMillan and PTA volunteers contributed significantly. Spanish teacher Claudia Mesnil-Baez created a daily trivia question for morning announcements. Maria Jones in English Language Learning helped decorate and raised students’ excitement with her collection of space clothes and costumes. Datcher coordinated the ‘re-entry device’ project.

“Space Week is like Career Week,” Bero said. Normally, Horizon invites parents to discuss their jobs at Redstone Arsenal, NASA and Cummings Research Park.

“Our Acting Building Maintenance/Custodian, David Blackburn, is retired from NASA and gave a video talk about his experiences. He encouraged students to study hard and look for jobs in aerospace, making the point that many people, doing many jobs, are needed in NASA — not just astronauts,” Bero said.

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