By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Fannie E. Proctor Elementary School fifth-grade teacher and the district Science Curriculum Leader Kristen MacDonald loves science. She did not hesitate to take a certification course in order for her to be able to borrow official National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) lunar and meteorite samples.
The program consists of samples of lunar and meteorite material encapsulated in a six-inch diameter clear Lucite disc. The discs are accompanied by grade-level teaching materials and presentations.
The topic is related to the fifth-grade curriculum and the program helps students to understand the early history of the solar system.
MacDonald also said it created conversations with students about Neil Armstrong, the first person who walked on the moon, and how information was shared then by the media, which is very different as to how news is shared today.
She had to explain to the class, “Everyone was congregated around the television screen to watch the live excitement to not miss the moment.”
In order to borrow the lunar/meteorite sample discs, MacDonald had to complete a certification course offered in conjunction with NASA and the Christa McAuliffe Center. She was one of 20 educators in Massachusetts who was certified and the only one that has ever been certified in the Northborough school district. The loan procedure and security requirements are quite strict.
MacDonald said having these samples in her possession mandated high security. The samples had to be attached to her or stored in a secured location at all times. She had to sign a federal agreement that these extremely specific guidelines would be followed.
“The samples are a national treasure and exist only in a limited quantity. They are more valuable than diamonds,” MacDonald said.
Lunar sample disks included materials such as orange soil, which is volcanic ash from a lunar eruption 3.5 billion years ago that was recovered by Apollo 17 astronauts, and Breccia, which are rocks made of fragments of other rocks that were broken and welded during collisions between the moon and meteorites.
The meteorite samples were found at various worldwide locations. For example, one sample was found in Allan Hills, Antarctica, in 1990 and another was found in Kansas in 1882.
The Clinton Police Department, which is on her way to and from work, agreed to handle the samples overnight for the two-week loan period.
The kids were excited to be a part of this special opportunity to see these samples.
“It was as if a celebrity was coming,” said MacDonald, “and there was a lot of build-up of excitement.”
MacDonald’s own son is in fifth grade in another school district but she was able to share the samples with his class while she had possession of them.
She would like to repeat this program next year and be able to invite the entire Northborough community.