Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan The fourth grade science class of Billy McKnight participates in an online video conference with Scott Anderson of the NASA Digital Learning Network at G.H. Hopkins Elementary School in Lilburn Wednesday. Anderson was located at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
LILBURN -- Have you ever wondered why space suits are white? Or how a helmet protects astronauts from the sun? Even why the sky is black in space?
Well, Bill McKnight's fourth-grade class at G.H. Hopkins Elementary School wanted to know the answers to these questions. Luckily the curious students were able to ask Scott Anderson of the NASA Digital Learning Network in Huntsville, Ala. through a live video conference Wednesday morning.
"I booked (the video conference) online through NASA for the presentation," said Sharon Britt, Hopkins' media specialist. "They make it pretty easy. I'd love to do a lot more of them, but this is the first one I've done."
With the group sitting on the floor of the library, Britt and McKnight prepped the kids for the presentation.
"Just be yourself, like he was here," Britt said to the class. "And remember to use a loud voice."
A few moments later, Anderson popped up on the projection screen.
"What do you think of when you think of NASA?" he asked.
Rockets, rovers, astronauts and satellites were shouted from the crowd.
All of the answers were right according to Anderson. He explained the additional work NASA does: learning about the Earth from the International Space Station, dealing with issues of global warming, weather observations and working with Google Earth.
Since astronauts live at the Space Station for months at a time, Anderson taught the kids how the scientists reside in space.
Besides water, food and oxygen -- the obvious things needed -- the crews need to sleep, go to the bathroom, exercise for two hours a day and enjoy entertainment when there is downtime.
"What would you bring to space for fun?" Anderson asked the students.
A banjo, playing cards and Phase 10 cards came from the young crowd.
"A banjo. Well, that's the first time I've heard that one," Anderson said with a laugh.
At the end of the lesson, Anderson took questions from the crowd. McKnight helped his fourth-grade group with the questions earlier in the week.
"We took a couple days to review the questions," he said. "I think (the students) are getting exposure to something that they probably wouldn't have otherwise (with the video conference). It's like a virtual field trip ... to increase their curiosity about science overall."
Hopkins Assistant Principal Mitch Green was equally excited about the educational event.
"It's a great opportunity for these kids, especially those who may not have the same resources as other children," he said.
With such success, Britt is looking into more live video conferences in the future.
"I thought it was great and I think they learned a lot," she said. "They were attentive, listened. They had great questions. He was great with kids -- had the personality for it. That made it a great experience. I would love to do this again."