Skip to content

New high school offering inspires “out of this world” learning

Two high school students sit side by side as a table in a school classroom. They are looking downward and are focused on their work at building small space vehicles with LEGO-type building blocks.
“I chose this class because I am really interested in space and a lot of what NASA does,” said tenth grader Dawson Tracki, pictured (left) at work on a space-themed LEGO team-building activity along with classmate Ian Zuppardi.

New this spring, the History of NASA elective at Fort Plain High School is offering students a chance to explore space right in the classroom.

Both students with a strong interest in space and space exploration as well as those who just want to learn more about a unique aspect of U.S. history have “gravitated” to this new class.

“This is something the kids had expressed a particular interest in learning more about,” explained High School History Teacher Bradley Niles, who designed and leads the class.“It is great to have the flexibility to create a course that taps into something they are so interested in.”

From the origins of the U.S. space program and the first manned landing on the Moon in 1969 to the creation and evolution of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), this course introduces students to the history, politics, science and innovation that have gone into and continue to influence space exploration.

Speakers inspire students to reach for the stars

Along with classroom lessons and projects that emphasize hands-on learning, problem solving, teamwork and reflection, students will benefit from learning and conversation with guest speakers with expertise on the topic of space and space exploration.

First up was a virtual visit from former Fort Plain High School Science Teacher Patrick Petty, who beamed in from Houston, TX on Feb. 5 to talk with the students about the work he now does with NASA as a Mission Support Specialist for its Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) division.

Petty’s stories about his work at HERA ran the gamut from how to purchase supplies for multiple people for forty-five day missions to what it is like to simulate space exploration for test subjects.

“I think that Mr.Petty has a lot of passion for space and his career that he has pursued. I also think that what he is doing is really fascinating,” said senior Ian Zuppardi. “If I had the opportunity to do what he is doing I would take it.”

“It was phenomenal to have Mr. Petty volunteer his time to help bring space exploration to our classroom,” added Niles. “It is clear Mr. Petty both loves his job and has a ton of knowledge to share on the topic. Our conversation with him has given us more topics to explore this semester and avenues for future projects.”