In 2004, Key Peninsula Middle School became the first NASA Explorer School in the state of Washington. At the time, it was to be for three years. Under the directon of teacher/founder Kareen Borders and a crew of dedicated teachers, KPMS students excelled and caught the attention of NASA, which added another year to the relationship. Then another. Then, last month, NASA and KPMS celebrated the 10th anniversary of the relationship.
KPMS teachers have flown in the “weightless” atmosphere simulated by NASA aircraft. With their students, they’ve visited NASA sites and participated in activities the rest of us can only imagine. KPMS students’ experiments have flown in space on NASA vehicles — including the very last shuttle flight. The kids have been in NASA facilities and worked with bona fide astronauts.
So far, none of our kids has gotten into outer space — but don’t hold your breath.
“I’m so proud of my aerospace students,” Borders said. “They’re curious, respectful, innovative and inclusive. I’m not surprised their proposals were selected from worldwide competition to fly experiments to the edge of space in the Cubes in Space program. We are fortunate to have so many partners in science, technology, engineering and math industries who provide mentor and collaboration opportunities that strengthen college and career readiness of our students.”
Former NASA students returned for the anniversary celebration. Among current NASA students, eighth-grader Natalie Pierson said, “being in aerospace lets me learn my favorite subject: Aerospace!” For classmate Alana Willms, “Aerospace class helped prepare me for Raisbeck Aviation High School. My favorite part was when we had lunch with the pilots and the astronaut.”
Seventh-grader Hailie Devers thinks “it would be really cool to have a job at NASA!”
Sixth-grader Tyana Strait’s favorite part was when the astronaut answered questions kids asked because “these are some of the things I wanted to know.” For classmate Johnathan Bea, “being a NASA Explorer School means everything to me. I’m kind of speechless.”
“My favorite part of the assembly,” said sixth-grader Lilli Roberts, “is when (astronaut, Dr.) Nicholas Patrick talked about life in space and what it looked like because it got me to imagine what I would do up there and what I would do in those situations.”
Donald G. James of NASA’s Ames Research Center was thrilled to celebrate KPMS’ ten-year anniversary.
“As part of the team that established the Explorer School program, it was gratifying to see bright students and KPMS alumni doing what we dreamed: becoming this nation’s future explorers and innovators,” he said. “KPMS is a shining example of what’s possible when exceptional teachers and administrators, a supportive community, and a world class agency like NASA come together.”
“Talking with Dr. Patrick I learned NASA has lots of jobs besides astronauts and test pilots,” said eighth-grader Andrew Winslow. “They need scientists, artists, engineers, and above all, people who are following their dreams.” Classmate Cody Wright’s favorite part was getting to talk with all the different people who came to KPMS.
Dan Newell, assistant superintendent at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the agency which oversees all 2,230 of our public K-12 schools, said in a note he “noticed several things which put KPMS in a select group at the top: teachers, administrators, office professionals, parents and community members want students to know that they are there for them at all times. I’ve been in front of hundreds of thousands of middle school students and have never felt as respected as I did at the NASA assembly.
“Students are having doors opened for them which will let them be in careers they are truly interested in. KPMS students aren’t just exposed to the NASA Explorer program, they’ve stayed with it a decade. The culture of being curious is ingrained in this school system.”
And our community is fortunate!