Astoria's Q300 is Aiming to Skype to Space

As a parent at PS/IS 300Q, The 30th Avenue School in Astoria, a citywide gifted and talented school, we have been helping the school to prepare and apply for a NASA Downlink application so our children can Skype with the astronauts from the International Space Station. The application is highly supported by the borough president, our local elected officials and District 30 superintendent. This project has grown into a corporation with our community partners and universities to engage our children in an extensive service learning program. We finished the school year with our very first STEAM Fair (STEM + Art), and while we wait for the result from NASA, we will continue volunteering at the school to help build it into a STEAM oriented institution.  

We have learned a lot in the process and understood that if we really want to make a difference in society through education it’s not enough to only keep the ideas within the walls of our school.

Dear In-Flight Education Downlink Team:

It all started two years ago on New Year’s Day, when my then 6-year-old son Ethan and I tuned into the History Channel at home and watched the Universe series together.  The show’s focus on Orion’s Belt triggered our talk about where the Orion Spur is located in the Milky Way and how many galaxies exist in the universe.  Ethan and I researched online and concluded that there are at least 100 billion in the observable universe.

“We are less than a grain of sand, mommy!”  Ethan shouted with such excitement as if he had just discovered another new universe. 

Reflecting upon humanity on Earth, people fight cluelessly over the differences in our colors, faiths, ideologies and resources.  Perhaps it is a cliché to wish for Peace on Earth for the New Year, but we still did.  I knew this was bigger than a wish but an ideal — a seed that needed to be planted and nourished among the young, right here and right now.

I approached the school principal and proposed a plan to have students meet ISS astronauts, have a STEAM school year filled with fun activities and the stories of human endeavors in space exploration, and most importantly have an opportunity for us to introspect, to explore who we are, our roles in society and our relationships with Earthly beings and beyond. Lynn, a like-minded parent, joined the quest. Given our PTA’s history of producing quality events that have hosted upward of 500 school community members at a time, I knew we could accomplish a NASA Downlink with great enthusiasm, focus and team support.

The 30th Avenue School, also known as Q300, is a K-8 Citywide Gifted and Talented public school located in the borough of Queens, New York. Our school sits in the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the world, with an estimated 800 languages spoken in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area.  We are fortunate that our children are immersed in such an environment encouraging them to embrace the beauty of diversity.

One of the most central goals of our school is to graduate students who value collaboration, with an emphasis on community engagement and responsibility.  We believe with the Downlink experience, our children can take away the excitement from exploring the unknown, working collaboratively with their peers who may otherwise be interested in different disciplines, and reach a common goal.  This learning process is sure to empower them to take on challenges around them, and ultimately make a positive impact on our community.

It is the tireless efforts and determination of two devoted parents and the Q300 community that have made our 2018-2019 STEAM Year endeavor possible. As a teaching facility, we are glad to learn that our year-long STEAM curriculum not only enhanced students’ perception and knowledge in space science and its connection to our physical world, the program will continue into the next school year, which will be substantially heightened by an opportunity to converse with the astronaut(s) through Downlink. We sincerely hope that with this introduction, our children will dare to dream big and continue to enjoy their learning journey.   

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. Our students and school community greatly look forward to hearing from you!  Having the Downlink during our school’s sixth year founding celebration would be thrilling.

Sincerely, Wennie Chen and the NASA Downlink Committee

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