NASA rep shows St. Rose students vastness of space


St. Rose of Lima School students listen to NASA ambassador Tom Timko give a talk about space during an April 12 assembly. Mike Ehrmann photos

When science teacher Karen Blaser came across the NASA Ambassador program, she knew immediately it would give her fifth and sixth grade students a great boost in their understanding of space.

“[They] are currently studying the solar system, so I found a Facebook page that offered NASA ambassadors to come and speak to students for free,” the teacher in St. Rose of Lima School, Freehold, explained. “I contacted Tom Timko, and he graciously accepted my invitation.”

NASA Ambassador Timko – whose interest in astronomy stemmed from the great space race that began in 1957, “Star Trek,” model rocketry and Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos,” – visited St. Rose of Lima School April 12, with a scale model of the solar system in tow for his favorite presentation.

Students watched space come alive with Timko’s visuals, including a five-foot model of the sun, which illustrated the vastness of space and the distance between planets and stars.

“I think seeing the planets to scale, with the sun in the center of the solar system, made them realize just how small we really are here on earth,” Blaser said.

Sixth grader Emily Passaro, who already knew some of NASA’s accomplishments such as “discovering objects in space … and how they launched rockets in space to observe those things,” found Timko’s presentation easily accessible.

“I love that it was easy to picture things in your mind,” Passaro said. “I just love space … the most interesting thing is how there is so much space even between two stars, you just can’t even imagine how far apart it is.”

Gianna Gitterman, also in sixth grade, also noted that Timko “explained it really well, he made everything clear.” The most interesting highlight for her was learning that “Mercury can be a low of -350 degrees, but Venus can be 900 degrees, which is farther [from the sun] than Mercury.”

Fellow sixth grader Caroline Cleary agreed. “I liked that you could really understand him; the way he talks about [space], it’s not difficult to understand.”

Timko has offered his insights at schools throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as the Buehler Challenger and Science Center, the Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia, the American Museum of Natural History, N.Y., NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboaratory and more.

As a result of the program, Blaser hoped that her students would “keep their curiosity and imagination going, and hopefully they can be the next person to walk on Mars … I would highly recommend Tom and the NASA Ambassador program for any elementary or high school – it was a wonderful program.”

Video footage by Mike Ehrmann contributed to this story.

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