Posted by: D. Rand | February 21, 2012

Fluffy the Science Dog Welcomed home by Students and Teachers!

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Three cheers for Fluffy the Science Dog and her adventures in microgravity! Fluffy, students and teachers anxiously await the NASA experiment video taken on the flight aboard the NASA Zero-G aircraft!

In the meantime, Fluffy has become a newspaper headline; see below:


Home  Education  News  GEMS launches ‘Fluffy’ into space

GEMS launches ‘Fluffy’ into space


Broadcasting live over the internet from a NASA hangar in Houston, Texas three teachers from the Glastonbury East-Hartford Elementary Magnet School were a little breathless as they described their brief weightless experience to the room full of students here Thursday, February 9.

The students sat on the floor in rapt attention in the all-purpose room of the school as a dozen fourth graders took turns asking how their carefully-planned experiments fared in the Zero G NASA aircraft.

Teachers Terry Wilson, Sheri Raffalo and Donna Rand explained how the airplane flew in a parabola up to 34,000 feet, then dove to 15,000 feet before leveling off, allowing them a few minutes to conduct their list of student-designed tests in the seemingly weightless environment created by the plane’s free-fall. They related that their favorite part was working with the other teachers they met from all across the United States.

“It’s just indescribable. I just can’t wait to show you the pictures when we get back on Monday,” said Mrs. Wilson. They excitedly detailed the mission in microgravity as NASA maintenance crews wheeled supplies and equipment in the background of hangar 990. At the end of the question and answer session someone off-camera held up a smart phone which recorded a video of the in-flight weightless experience.

The teachers noted a Slinky wobbled sideways, they did not get the chance to see how marbles reacted in microgravity, and they learned that communication is vital. Reduced gravity made it difficult to hear, and they had to use hand signals to communicate.

Wearing flight suits with an air sickness bag ‘chrysanthemum corsage’ pinned to it, just in case, they held up the star of the hour, “Fluffy” a stuffed white dog. One of the experiments in weightlessness was to “launch Fluffy” across the airplane cabin.

“Fluffy kind of crashed into the wall,” reported teacher Terry Wilson. The three attended a workshop at the Johnson Space Center Tuesday and saw the nearby home of Hamilton Sundstrand of Connecticut, makers of space suits, helmets and gloves used by NASA astronauts. Students laughed when one of the other teachers said she had not quite gotten “feet down” on the deck when the plane leveled out to the equvalent of twice normal earth gravity. “I went down on my behind,” Mrs. Rand noted, scientifically.

Astronaut Dottie Metcalf, who flew on STS 131, gave them good advice to “relax and do everything you needed to do,” related Mrs. Wilson.

The three GEMS teachers were among a group of over 70 teachers who participated in the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, 40 from the NASA Explorer Schools program. The flight aboard the ZeroG aircraft is part of NASA’s astronaut training. NASA Associate Administrator for Education and two-time space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin also participated in some of the flights and shared first-hand with the participants his experiences in astronaut training.

“The enthusiasm among our teachers participating in the reduced gravity flights is contagious,” Melvin said. “I know it will add a new dimension to their teaching as they engage their students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies.”

Also participating in the flights was Mark Riccobono, executive director of the National Federation of the Blind’s Jernigan Institute. Riccobono is blind. NASA has worked with the National Federation of the Blind in a variety of capacities during the past 10 years to share the excitement and inspiration of the agency’s missions and programs with those who are visually impaired.

“NASA education always is looking for ways to make our offerings available to the widest audience possible,” Melvin said. “Mark Riccobono’s flight represents a new chapter in our commitment to sharing the excitement of NASA’s mission with the blind community.”

The Teaching from Space Program works to create space-related learning opportunities. After the East Hartford-Glastonbury Elementary Magnet School was named as one of 14 NASA schools selected from a pool of 1,300 NASA Explorer Schools for the 2011 School Recognition Award, teachers worked with their students to propose, design and build microgravity experiments to take aboard Thursday’s flight. All students in kindergarten through Grade 5 came up with experiments in their school science labs involving Newton’s Laws of motion, mass and fluid dynamics.

Technology specialist Hiroe Vestergaard, and technicians from CREC, set up the connection with the teachers using the school’s video conferencing equipment. The teachers said they could not wait to return to East Hartford and describe all the experiments the following Monday, and show the phone video of their experience.

“I’m thrilled that our students and teachers are participating in the NASA Microgravity Project,” explained Glen Peterson, principal of GEMS. “This is a wonderful and unique experience,” explains Peterson. “Where else do first graders participate in videoconferences with NASA scientists about microgravity?”

Students at GEMS will move into their new state-of-the-art building in Glastonbury this summer. The school will feature a planetarium and two science rooms specifically built for hands-on learning for young students. The new building was designed to further enhance students’ studies in STEM disciplines, and the space sciences in particular.

Founded 20 years ago as a cooperative venture between East Hartford and Glastonbury school superintendents Samuel J. Leone and R. Stephen Tegarden when one town faced school overcrowding and the other had a vacant school, the program became one of the first magnet schools in Connecticut offering enhanced sciences based on the space program and Japanese language classes. CREC took over operation of the K through grade 6, now K-5 program. The new school will be larger and open to several other towns in addition to East Hartford and Glastonbury.

CREC has since expanded from GEMS and now operates 16 elementary, middle and secondary magnet and charter schools in the Hartford area.
For more info go to

To learn more about NASA’s education activities, visit:

WFSB Channel 3Strong stomach required — Teachers perform experiments aboard Zero G aircraft

 Strong stomach required — Teachers perform experiments aboard Zero G aircraft

Posted: Feb 09, 2012 7:57 AM ESTUpdated: Feb 09, 2012 8:16 AM EST

By Steven Yablonski, Managing Editor – email 



Teachers from the Glastonbury-East Hartford Elementary Magnet School are expected to fly aboard a Zero G aircraft in Houston while the school watches.

The Capitol Region Education Council’s Glastonbury-East Hartford Elementary Magnet School was recognized by NASA as one of 14 schools that received the 2011 School Recognition Award.

GEMS was chosen from a pool of more than 1,300 NASA Explorer Schools for its unique and significant contributions to science,technology, engineering and mathematics education.

Students and teachers participated in the NASA Microgravity Project and worked to design experiments in their school science lab that involved Newton’s Laws of motion, mass and fluid dynamics.

Three teachers from GEMS were then selected to actually test the experiments aboard the Zero G aircraft in Texas.

At 2:25 p.m., the chosen GEMS teachers will connect live with the whole school using video conferencing equipment, and students will then observe the experiments being conducted from on board the aircraft.

Copyright 2012 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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