LAUNCH JUNE 28, 2011


Forty years ago, the Eagle landed, leading to a giant leap for mankind. This year, the students of Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island have received the opportunity of a century: to design science experiments that will study fluid diffusion, cell biology, and organism's reactions and characteristics while in microgravity aboard the Atlantis Shuttle. This is it: after years of shuttle flights, this is NASA's final space shuttle flight—and YKLI will be part of it.

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is the natural next step for our vision of our STEM program, challenging our students in domains that have not been explored, allowing them to “be” scientists, “be” a part of a national mission. There is great attraction in being a part of a much larger and nationally important scientific community where rigor and dedication to the scientific method have resulted in interplanetary research. We see the project’s potential to ignite our science program and unite our learning community. Though the parameters of the project include grades five to eight, indeed, the whole school, all students will be involved with grade-appropriate classroom scientific projects, patch design, and research which would engage and involve everyone in preparation for the launch.

After designing the experiment, and passing a NASA flight safety review, the students will send the experiment to the Kennedy Space Center to be placed on the shuttle. The students and participants will then fly down to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the takeoff. Upon their return to YKLI, they will continually observe their experiment-in-progress in YKLI’s Earth-bound science lab. Prior to landing, the students will return to Florida to observe the landing, receive their project, and take it back to the lab. There, they will record subsequent observations and derive necessary conclusions.

YKLI's Kindergarten through third grade will be working on a mission patch design for the project; grades four through 8 will design the experiment. Parents and administrators are involved through the parent ideation committee, a parent project assessment committee, and YKLI administration review panels. Local scientists as well are welcome to contact the school to join in preparing the project and preparing for the launch.

"The Student Space Flight Experiments Program http://ssep.ncesse.org is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education NCESSE; http://ncesse.org in partnership with Nanoracks, LLC. The SSEP on-orbit educational research opportunity in enabled through NanoRacks, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory





Getting Ready for Takeoff

An Update on YKLI in Space Program


Over the past few weeks, Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island has become its own space and science center. As visitors enter the building, they are greeted by two full-size astronauts’ space suits alongside a model of the shuttle Atlantis, a screen with a slideshow featuring various shuttle interiors and launch photos, and a full description of the YKLI in Space project. But that is only the very beginning of an adventure in exploration happening inside the classrooms and Gruss/CIJE science labs of YKLI.


In recent weeks, the students from various grades who have been selected to design projects that will fly on the shuttle attended a series of research seminars to learn about what experiments work in a microgravity environment. These seminars, led by Assistant Principal Larissa Steele, in-turn helped the students develop the ideas about their experiments and the experimental design. Mrs. Steele challenged the students to review other "in-space" research and experiment design and let their imaginations contemplate the "what-if's" of scientific space study; their response was to take on the role of scientist and the spirit of enquiry not only with enthusiasm but with a deep sense of responsibility and commitment.


The training, including work with classroom mentor Yona Berwaldt, opened the students' minds and enabled them to think like scientists and develop hypotheses. These ideas were then further developed into experiment designs, in coordination with Katerina Buff, a former Harvard Medical School researcher and science and math department chair from the Maimonides School in Brookline, MA.


The three final projects designed by three teams of six students from various grades, include experiments on crystallization, Planaria (a live organism), and mustard seeds. The goal is to determine how each experiment will develop in a microgravity environment, with an eye toward science in space exploration.


Ms. Buff helped the students draft their proposals to be approved by a panel of scientists at SSEP/NCESSE in conjunction with Nanoracks and NASA, then reviewed by the NASA ITA toxicology board. The scientist panel will then decide which of the three will fly.


What next?


Now it's time to really hit the lab. Once the panel of scientists decides on the experiment they would like to bring into orbit, students will improvise and improve the chemical admixtures to determine the exact formulas that will obtain maximal results on the Shuttle Atlantis.


In the meantime, the rest of YKLI is immersed in scientific study. The preschool and grades 1 and 2 witnessed the way the sky will look the night of the shuttle takeoff. The SkyDome Planetarium came to the school and inflated a full-size planetarium, demonstrating the night sky to the all grades.


In class, Stew Greenberg, a community STEM professional and YKLI parent and project coordinator, discussed the point of space exploration and the practical outcomes of space travel with the Jr. High school classes. This helped connect the students to the science behind the space adventure and further inspired them about the possibilities behind lab science and shuttle launches. He also discussed halachic questions about space travel and tefilah and answered questions about microgravity.


Coming up next week: which experiment will fly?