Oakmont at Shady Side students reaching for the stars

 Messenger photo by Sandi Latimer

Students of Oakmont at Shady Side sign a poster on Space Day on May 2. Oakmont was one of hundreds of schools nationwide where students affixedt heir signatures to a poster. Those signatures will be digitalized and sent into space with a launch this fall.

On May 2, Space Day at Oakmont at Shady Side School, students ran onto the playground for the noon-time recess. All had a small detour in their play routine.

They stopped at a table to sign the name to a poster destined for a ride on the Space Shuttle, an activity of Space Day on May 2.

"Write small," cautioned students of Vicki Ayotte, the fourth-grade teacher who administered the project. Her students took short shifts to watch over the poster as the 350 children and staff affixed their signatures.

Space Day is a project with Lockheed Martin for the space program. A select number of schools nationwide are chosen each year to participate.

On Space Day, every student in the chosen schools signs the provided poster which is then returned to Lockheed Martin.

The signatures are then digitalized and will accompany astronauts on a space flight the following fall. Participating schools are notified when the signature-laden flight is scheduled so they can follow it.

When the spacecraft returns to Earth, participating schools will receive a certificate that signifies the students‚ signatures went into space.

Ayotte admitted she was surprised when a FedEx package addressed to her arrived at the school not long before the designated day.

"I couldn’t remember signing up for it," she said, adding that she is always searching the Internet and going through other sources to come up with ideas and different projects for the students.

She quickly organized the school-wide project. As the clock slowly ticked toward 12:30 p.m. and lunch-recess, Ayotte wrapped up a lesson on rocks. Three students carried desks out to the playground and set them up to hold the giant poster.

Students chose a pen from three boxes of brightly colored felt-tip pens and wrote their names.

"Fourth-graders will sign the poster in afternoon classes," Ayotte admonished in turning away some older students.

A school is allowed to participate once every six years, according to the Web site. That rotation allows more students to participate each year.

Come fall, Ayotte and her colleagues will be teaching a special space lesson.

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