Jamestown Students Host NASA Representatives To Discuss After-School Program

Several students at two Jamestown Public Schools middle schools participated in a unique question-and-answer experience with two employees of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

On Tuesday, Washington and Jefferson middle schools welcomed Dr. Charles Lloyd, NASA human research program and outreach program manager, and Scott Townsend, NASA Train Like an Astronaut project coordinator, to discuss the schools’ involvement with an out-of-this-world after-school program.

For nearly three years, Washington and Jefferson have been participating in NASA’s “Train Like an Astronaut” after-school program. Developed in cooperation with NASA scientists and fitness professionals working directly with astronauts, the Train Like an Astronaut activities are a physical and inquiry-based approach to human health and fitness on Earth and in space. Students can participate in physical activities modeled after the real-life physical requirements of humans traveling in space.

The two NASA representatives arrived on-site to find out how effectively the program was implemented in the after-school program. According to Townsend, the Train Like an Astronaut program serves to provide students with an inside look at the physical activities that astronauts must undergo and the requirements necessary to successfully meet them.

“The activities are based on the actual training of the astronauts,” said Townsend, who is based out of NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. “The serendipitous thing is they don’t use a lot of technical gear, so they can be done in the living room or in a normal gym. And the same kind of things we use to train the astronauts can be used to maintain health and wellness throughout your whole life. So, it’s something that’s very easily adaptable to people of all ages and all walks of life. And, while it’s aimed at elementary kids, we do it for a multitude of ages, and it works out really well.”

The question-and-answer sessions lasted for approximately a half-hour at each school. Discussion centered around subjects such as the long-term effects of zero gravity on the human body and the Mars One mission, in which a nonprofit foundation aims to send a select group of humans on a one-way trip to Mars in order to establish an self-sufficient extraterrestrial colony.

According to Dick Stineman, a science teacher for JPS’ after-school program, Jamestown’s participation in the Train Like an Astronaut program initially came about through a NASA Summer of Innovation grant. He said the program kept the students engaged by employing a series of science lessons.

“In the Train Like an Astronaut (program), we had four science lessons that showed things like the importance of hydration and nutrition in terms of flight and what the astronauts go through,” Stineman said.