Riley Elementary School

Salt Lake CityTHE EVENT\ Classes: Fifth- and sixth-graders, under Kathy Mortensen's direction.

Subject: Science: studies on outer space - a special learning project for the school's most advanced students.

Number of students: 24

A space simulator - a small room with many control panels, maps, computers and video screens, developed by students, where they can imagine (and simulate to an extent) what traveling in outer space would really be like. (The simulator is located at the Garfield Learning Center, 1838 S. 1500 East.) The students have spent as many as 12 continuous hours in the simulator.

THE SCHOOL\ Location: 1431 S. 900 West

Students: 400, kindergarten through sixth grade\ Number of teachers: 18\ Principal: Tony T. Bozich\ School district: Salt Lake City\

THE LEARNING\ The teacher hopes the students learned: many aspects in a more real-life situation than are possible in a regular classroom. Students had to use reading skills, apply scientific principles, work with computers and learn to cooperate with each other during the project. Marc Ferguson, Whittier Elementary teacher and the district's coordinator of the young-astronaut program, said this program gets students to use their imagination in a way that makes learning fun. He said students also learn how to solve many problems through the program.\

The children say they learned: Bryan Jones, sixth grade, said he learned that traveling in outer space would be a fun experience but also a dangerous one, where a single mistake could lead to a disaster.

Crystal Osborne, sixth-grader (and one of only two girls involved in the project), said she has learned a lot of new words during the program and has learned how a rocket lands. She also said she's realized just how cramped together astronauts are during real space travel.

Cory Miller, sixth-grader (and commander of the space mission), said he's realized just how important it is to keep your food supply protected during space travel. He said he's also felt some of the weight of responsibility that a real space commander would have for the safety of his crew. He also said you really tend to look forward to the "R&R" period (rest/relaxation).

What happens next: Most students would be willing to go back in the simulator for another 12 continuous hours. The district is considering expanding the program.