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Bechtel Elementary School sixth-graders Josh Noby, left, and Nicholas Blanton feel what walking on the moon is like Wednesday while wearing "moon shoes" to simulate walking in reduced gravity.

Bechtel Elementary School sixth-graders Josh Noby, left, and Nicholas Blanton feel what walking on the moon is like Wednesday while wearing "moon shoes" to simulate walking in reduced gravity. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

Bechtel Elementary School sixth-graders Josh Noby, left, and Nicholas Blanton feel what walking on the moon is like Wednesday while wearing "moon shoes" to simulate walking in reduced gravity.

Bechtel Elementary School sixth-graders Josh Noby, left, and Nicholas Blanton feel what walking on the moon is like Wednesday while wearing "moon shoes" to simulate walking in reduced gravity. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

Bechtel Elementary School sixth-grader Jennifer Black is all smiles after she successfully screws a nut onto a bolt after several tries while wearing numerous pairs of gloves, to simulate the restricted movements of wearing a space suit.

Bechtel Elementary School sixth-grader Jennifer Black is all smiles after she successfully screws a nut onto a bolt after several tries while wearing numerous pairs of gloves, to simulate the restricted movements of wearing a space suit. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

Josh Noby attempts to screw a nut onto a bolt while wearing gloves.

Josh Noby attempts to screw a nut onto a bolt while wearing gloves. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

CAMP McTUREOUS, Okinawa — Students at Bechtel Elementary School here left Earth this week and explored outer space as they walked on the moon, got up close to constellations and learned about gravity — and all without ever leaving their school grounds.

The school launched “Space Week” on Monday. Classes could rotate through space-themed rooms to complete projects and learn about the last frontier, according to Tiffiney Weddle, the school’s gifted-education teacher who headed the program. Weddle and her “Space Cadets” — other teachers who helped plan the week — organized it so teachers, kindergarten through sixth grade, could choose which events they wanted their students to experience.

Areas offered were Star Lab, a portable planetarium in which students learned about constellations; Astro Lab, where students had to perform astronaut tasks; Space Quest, a computer lab at which students explored space through Web sites; Space Jeopardy, a space-themed version of the game show; Flight Lab, where students completed two space-related science projects; and a guest speaker who talked about satellites. Later in the week, a simulation software program was offered to teachers that let students explore space.

This is the second time the school has held the weeklong activities.

“We want to give the kids as much background on the components of space as we can,” Weddle said. “We want them to understand things other than the solar system, like how astronauts work in space and how gravity works.”

One of the more popular rooms was the Astro Lab. There, students had to perform astronaut tasks such as picking up small objects (K’NEX toys) with a hand-held gripper while wearing five layers of clothes to simulate the restrictions of a space suit. They also drank water upside down, assembled nuts and bolts while wearing four pairs of gloves and laced on “moon shoes” — platform plastic soles with bungee cords that suspended their feet to give a zero gravity feel.

Sixth-grader Jennifer Black, 12, said she enjoyed the Astro Lab the most because the “moon shoes were so much fun.” She admitted assembling the nuts and bolts was tough.

“It gave me a feel of how hard an astronaut’s job may be. … I don’t want to be an astronaut,” she said.

The Star Lab was the favorite of fifth-grader Brodie Collins, 10. He said it taught him a lot about constellations and he was surprised to learn there was one named “Big Dog.” Collins said he also enjoyed learning about gravity and the experiments in the Flight Lab. The hands-on learning, he said, is “better than just reading about it.”

Weddle said that’s what the week is all about: having a good time while learning.

“We just wanted to make something fun for the kids,” she said, “and promote science.”

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