One Giant Leap for “Green Kind”

The Only Georgia School to Receive the Out of this World NASA Donation

It is not every day a person can plant a tree that has been to the moon. But that is what Sagamore Hills Elementary School students did, thanks to one teacher who thought beyond the classroom and into the space, the final frontier.

Sagamore Hills Elementary School was recently awarded a unique gift from NASA – a “moon tree.” On May 2, the school planted a loblolly pine plant on their grounds after their STEM teacher, Mrs. Stephanie Spencer, applied to NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement. Out of hundreds of applicants, Sagamore Hills was chosen as one of the recipients of this unique tree and is the only educational institution in Georgia to receive one.

“This is a great learning experience for our students as we expand our STEM program,” said Sagamore Hills Principal Dr. Karen Williams.

The Artemis I Moon Tree was grown from a seed that orbited the moon during a space mission from November 16, 2022, to December 11, 2022. According to NASA, the seeds traveled 270,000 miles from Earth aboard the Orion spacecraft. A diverse array of tree species was flown around the moon’s surface. The first batch of seedlings was shipped to almost 50 institutions across 48 states.

“This is part of the NASA STEM engagement, and our STEM program revolves around activities that kids can engage in real problem solving,” said Mrs. Spencer. “The kids will monitor the tree; they’ll measure it every month starting next year, and I’ll take care of it over the summer. They’ll keep track of the progress in their moon journals, and they’ll keep those journals until they finish the fifth grade.”

All grade levels at the school have a curriculum about plants, and some also learn about space. The project is an interdisciplinary approach, not just for problem-based learning.

“This project can be used through math to measure the tree. This is another layer of growing our STEM program,” Dr. Williams said. “We plan to continue this project and watch the process of the tree’s growth.”

NASA is providing a STEM engagement lesson kit to the school in addition to the moon tree. NASA will invite Sagamore Hills to participate in quarterly virtual gatherings starting in the summer of 2024 to share their efforts to engage with K-12 learners and the public.

“Hopefully, this experience will bring them lasting memories and interests beyond this day,” said Dr. Williams.

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