Yesterday, the children at Bollman Bridge Elementary got a treat: NASA came to visit. All right, maybe not the entire space agency. But Ronald Ernst, an Aerospace Education Specialist from NASA certainly brought enough stuff in his van to give the impression that the whole agency was visiting.
Mr. Ernst is part of the NASA Aerospace Education Services Program which provides a one- day school visit to interested area schools.
The program features a lecture/demonstration of the history of space exploration, some principles of rocketry, aeronautics, remote sensing and astronomy. Then, the specialist visits classrooms for the rest of the day, answering questions.
Mr. Ernst brought along models of rockets and spaceships, a flight suit that astronauts wear on the shuttle, space food (freeze-dried ice cream is really strange), a space suit suitable for casual strolls in a vacuum and a piece of heat-reflecting tile from a space shuttle.
He demonstrated how the heat shield works by using a blowtorch on it.
Marlene Iris, the gifted and talented program resource teacher, was thrilled to be offered this program again this year. NASA last visited Bollman Bridge four years ago. The program is so popular that the agency rotates it among the schools that ask for it.
Ms. Iris thinks the program is an especially good one. She notes that the program is free to schools and organizations. The number of the NASA Space Program Aerospace Education unit is (301) 286-4495.
Anna Campos, a North Laurel ice skater, recently returned from the South Atlantic Regional Qualifying Competition. The fifth-grader scored well in her first competition, earning fifth place in a competition that draws talented skaters from New Jersey to Florida.
She is a member of the Columbia Skating Club, which will present "The Nutcracker on Ice" Dec. 12 and 18 at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Look for this up-and-coming skater as one of the Russian dancers performing for Clara and the Prince. Bryann Harbert and Lora Anderson, other North Laurel skaters, will appear in the Christmas party scene.
Tickets for the performance are $4 per person, but they go fast. They are available at the Columbia Ice Rink, Oakland Mills Village Center, Thunderhill Road in Columbia. Call (410)730-0322 for tickets.
Next Friday, Hammond Elementary students will compute, calculate and estimate as they participate in an all-day math program.
Jay Sleuter, a member of the Parent Teacher Association, has made math activity booklets that the students have taken home to share with parents.
The students will bring these math sheets back on Thursday, and then get a preview of the next day's program, as a "mathemagician" will explain all about numbers: how they can disappear without a trace, or change into something else entirely.
On Friday, the National Security Agency sends members of its Math Speaker's Bureau to the school to demonstrate why math is important.
Then it's on to the Measurement Olympics and to the Pennies in a Jar Estimation Contest (pennies provided by Citizen's National Bank, Hammond's educational partner.) All in all, a sterling organizing job by Linda Feldmasser, Betsy Goldstein and the other members of the Math Committee.
Hammond Elementary's student council is sponsoring a food drive starting Monday and running through Dec. 17 for the benefit of FISH of Laurel. Jessica Hammers, Kristen Ponder, Gabe Katz and John Wayne have organized this effort.
Many of the local food drives and benefit performances mention either FISH of Laurel or LARS, Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services.
LARS began operations in 1987. Its mission is to coordinate and refer people to services that they need.
I recently spoke to Marcia Mityga, director of the program, about the various services LARS provides.
They include include helping people get their necessary papers in order, such as birth certificates (from personal experience I can say that getting a copy of a birth certificate from Pennsylvania is a real hassle), Social Security forms, public assistance forms and other documentation.
LARS also helps during crises, such as threatened evictions and utility cutoffs. LARS has arranged for prescription medications for those without insurance and manages a food pantry.
In addition, the group coordinates the Adopt-a-Family program and refers people to this program, as the program actually is run by individual churches.
Finally, LARS helps to run and refer men to the Winterhaven Project. The Winterhaven provides homeless men a safe place to stay during the winter months. About 18 area churches rotate sponsorship of 15 to 25 men for a week at a time.
Under that program, the men are served dinner, sleep in that week's area, are served a light breakfast, and are given a box lunch before leaving.
The logistics of such an effort are astonishing. Yet LARS does all of this with a small staff, including social worker Don Phillips, student social workers Stephanie Miller and Lydia Randolph and a staff of 12 office volunteers and 50 or so other volunteers.
If you want to help out or volunteer with any of these efforts, call Ms. Mityga at LARS at 776-0442.