Space: the final frontier. These are not the voyages of the starship Enterprise, but Charleston Middle School students and their families will get to explore space from Arkansas.

Science teachers Sabrina Ketter and Missy Stubblefield are hosting a family space night Tuesday at Charleston Middle School to promote parent involvement and go deeper into what was taught in class.

“We are very excited and very appreciative of what we have to offer next Tuesday night,” Stubblefield said.

The night will begin with “space-themed” music from movies such as “Star Wars” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” before families begin the festivities.

There will be “make and take” projects, a presentation about the history of constellations in an inflatable planetarium, an outdoor telescope viewing and Stormtroopers from “Star Wars.” Stubblefield said families can take photos with space backgrounds and props for a keepsake, and goodie bags from the Arkansas Space Consortium will be available for students.

Artifacts from Johnson Space Center in Houston and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will be on display. These include an astronaut’s glove, helmet, model rocket and space murals.

“Our enthusiasm has pretty much leaked over into them, because they are so excited,” Ketter said. “Everyday, I have students tell me, ‘I can’t wait for space night.’”

Ketter and Stubblefield said they’re most excited for the students to see the NASA artifacts and use Google Virtual Reality goggles to “tour” the International Space Station.

“We live in a rural community where some of our kids don’t have the opportunities that I wish they could have,” Stubblefield said. “One of the things we got a grant for are four Google Expeditions for 3D simulation … and have the closest experience possible without actually being there.”

Both teachers have attended conferences at Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Stubblefield said the community has supported their trips where they learn about new space initiatives, research and classroom activities. This event is sort of a “thank you” for that support, Stubblefield said.

Fifth- and sixth-graders, taught by Ketter, learn about the solar system, the difference between rotation and revolution and how the Earth compares to other objects in the universe. Students also used 3D printing pens from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith to create models of various planets in the solar system for research projects, which will be on display Tuesday.

Stubblefield teaches seventh- and eighth-graders. They study other solar systems within the Milky Way galaxy, learn about multiple galaxies and talk a little bit about dark matter. Students build three different styles of rockets, while discussing the physics and engineering it will take to get to Mars.

To promote space even more, both teachers have in their classrooms a live feed of the International Space Station, which they often watch with their students. Middle school science students watched two weeks ago the first all-woman space walk. On the weekends, families may check out one of three telescopes donated by the Arkansas/Oklahoma Astronomical Association.

“Over the past couple of years, our kids have become very interested in space,” Stubblefield said.

Stubblefield and Ketter started a summer camp for kids who wanted to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math. This is the first time, however, they’re holding the family night.

They’re hoping it goes well, so more family nights about different topics can be hosted. Stubblefield expects it to be a success, though, simply from the interest parents showed at teacher conferences this week.

“We are so excited to share all of this with our students,” Ketter said of the artifacts and presentations. “So many of them wouldn’t be able to go to Johnson Space Center or Kennedy and see some of these things, so it’s a big deal to bring it to our school.” 

Charleston Middle School students and their families are invited to explore space starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Due to the size of the middle school, the event is not open to the public.