Santa Monica is going to space.
Two decorative patches designed by local students will be launched to the International Space Station to accompany a science experiment that Lincoln Middle School students developed as part of a national educational program.
The initiative, known as the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, aims to promote 21st-century skills by developing student interest in STEM activities: science, technology, engineering and math.
But the program also stresses the importance of interdisciplinary learning and communication, which is why organizers include an artistic component.
“The future is technology, but if students can‚Äôt communicate their science and technology findings clearly, those ideas are empty and they don‚Äôt come to fruition,” said Gretchen Gies-McLaughlin, an English teacher at Lincoln who is serving as a coordinator for the project. “Bringing in the arts makes it more meaningful for many different students. It‚Äôs their chance to have a part of this collaborative effort.”
In the fall, Lincoln students did extensive research and designed experiments to be conducted in space.
Samuel Buckley-Bonanno, Adam Chamas, Charlie Gooding and Shrayes Raman crafted the winning submission with an experiment involving paper chromatography, a method for separating chemicals and other substances. Their experiment is slated to be launched in mid-June through the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.
Accompanying the quartet‚Äôs fluid mixing enclosure ‚Äî a tiny tube containing the experiment ‚Äî will be two decorative patches.
With Gies-McLaughlin, science teacher Marianna O‚ÄôBrien and other organizers aiming to rally the local community around the project, students throughout the Santa Monica-Malibu school district were invited to enter the art contest.
Roughly 420 submissions were received, including about 330 from Lincoln Middle School students and about 90 from elementary students at five different campuses.
Gies-McLaughlin and a panel of fellow teachers judged the entries and selected two, one by a middle school student and one by an elementary school student.
Grant Elementary School student Tatum Meyer‚Äôs chosen patch features a space shuttle with an American flag against a backdrop of Earth, stars and an asteroid.
“I drew people around the space shuttle to show teamwork,” Meyer said.
Lincoln Middle School winner Alisa Boardman‚Äôs patch shows the shuttle launching from Earth towards the International Space Station.
“Through collaboration, innovation and hard work,” she said, “we can reach new heights together and build a better future.”
The winning 3.5-inch square patches will travel with the experiment and serve as symbols “of the community‚Äôs remarkable adventure in STEM education on the high frontier,” the program website reads.
Santa Monica students‚Äô artwork has been to space before. A few years ago, Maddie Schultz, Luna Albertini and Grace Slansky designed emblems to accompany a locally conceived experiment about the effects of microgravity on the formation of Silly Putty.
“The program has been expanded and definitely improved upon, and so has the participation,” Gies-McLaughlin said. “We had huge numbers.”
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.