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Comet Day at Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind

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Hands-on activities developed by educators at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) gave students an opportunity to learn about comets, craters, and impacts. Educator Dee McClellan informed the students about the goal of the NASA comet missions, and children had the opportunity to learn about comets through Ejecta and Plume tactile graphic series. Tactile graphics (images with raised surfaces), developed as part of McREL's Adapted Curriculum Enhancement (ACE) program and funded by NASA, allowed students to visualize in their mind's eye the cratering process—including the destructed nature of crater formation.

  Four yellow tactile planetarium tents   Student touching the wall of tactile planetarium tent   Tactile constellation inside planetarium tent  
  Tactile planetarium tents each represented the sky in a different season: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.   A student searches for comets inside the tactile planetarium tent.   Tactile constellation inside a planetarium tent.  

Four planetarium tents—each tent representing the night sky during one of the four seasons— gave students a chance to feel the location of comets Hartley 2 and Tempel 1, the targets of EPOXI and Stardust-NExT respectively, during the different seasons. In the planetarium tents, created by retired CSDB teacher Ben Wentworth, different star magnitudes are represented by plastic molds of different sizes and metal hardware nuts.

  Student holding her comet on a stick   Students at table with educator learning about impact craters
  A student shows off her comet on a stick.   Students make their own impact crater as John Ristvey of McREL watches on.

In the Comet-on-a-Stick activity, students used their knowledge and imaginations in constructing their own comet models using an assortment of art supplies. Other activities included comet story-telling, clay model crater building, ice cream comets, and a cratering activity using sand and golf balls.

Comet Day created student enthusiasm and interest in the upcoming NASA mission events as well as an understanding of the exciting nature of the solar system.

The day ended with students sitting in the sun enjoying ice cream cone comets, sharing what they had learned. One teacher commented, “Thanks again for an awesome day. The students really enjoyed it!”

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