Planetfest- Shenandoah Valley Style

From: (Marilyn Kennedy)
Subject: Planetfest- Shenandoah Valley Style
Date: Tue, 8 Jul 1997 20:09:50 -0400

Though I did not make it to Pacedena, WE were there at the
               "Planetfest" -Shenandoah Valley Style

Wanting to share the excitement of the the Pathfinder Landing with my
students, I invited them to an "Open House" the afternoon and evening of
"landing day." Originally I thought of celebrating this event at school,
but the red tape involved in opening up the school over the 4th of July
holiday, finding a classrom that was not being stripped and cleaned and
piled sky high with furniture, and then setting up the satellite- well, it
was not long before I realized that it was just easier to invite everyone
to my house!! I prayed to the weather gods for  good weather here on Earth,
more specifically "in my little corner of the world" because this
celebration had to be an outdoor event. My house could no way accomodate
some 20 excited and enthused students and their parents and of course
younger siblings. To be truthful at times I questioned the santity of this
Mars Party and got "sweaty palms" thinking of all the logistics involved.
Was I crazy or what!!!

There on my deck I set up three TVs with long snaking wires coming out from
various windows, the ones  closest to my cable outlets. I also made
offerings to the "cable gods" entreating them to "stay connected" for the
Fourth.  From school I  brought over my classroom computer and their Mars
Rover ( which I could not bear to break" down in June) and their
Mars-scape. Once the TVs were in place,  the grill was fired and ready to
go with hotdogs and hamburgers. Parents volunteered to "carry in" delicious
salads, casseroles, and ice cream machines. If nothing else, I knew I could
put the more rambunctious kids to work cranking the ice cream machine!

It really was quite a sight -all this assembled on my deck-and quite a
testimonial to the marvels of technology. There half way up a mountain  in
the midst of  woods there on my deck  were my students and their parents
crowded around the 3 TVs, watching the landing of Pathfinder on Mars. Being
outside surrounded by the "natural elements" of this planet seemed only to
magnify the magnificence of our landing on Mars.

As the events of the afternoon and the evening unfolded, I could not help
but think back to the night when I watched Neil Armstrong take that giant
leap for mankind. I thought how much  luckier my students were tonight
because they were not just witnesses to this historic event, but instead
they were made to feel a part of this Mars Mission, they became "connected"
through the activities of PTK  -the electronic fieldtrips, the
fieldjournals, the hands-on activities and investigations, the PET. Each
component enabled my students to be a part of "space" history. That day as
we watched  each "success" and  celebration in the  Pathfinder Mission
Control Center, my students joined in with their own high fives and shouts
of joy and  exclamations "we did it!"

The day ended with everyone on the deck watching the fireworks being fired
off the mountain top--there could not have been a more spectacular ending
to such a exciting day!!

And I have to sing the praises of CNN- though their coverage may not always
have been perfect, it was so much more comprehensive than I offered any
place elese.

What a mervelous Fourth of July!! It is one we will remember for the rest
of our lives!

Marilyn Wall
here in the Shenandoah Valley