ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Teachers and volunteers used grant money to turn a portable classroom into a spaceship for Brushy Creek Elementary students to explore new worlds.
The $2,000 grant from the Round Rock ISD Partners in Education (PIE) Foundation allowed the school to transform the space into, well, space. Parents built and installed a command center in one half of the room and outfitted the other half to represent the moon. Students can explore in a rover, see the outside of the spaceship and play among the stars.
Teachers call the space a “transformation room.” In the fall, it was converted into a camping area, complete with tents and campfire games; but since Brushy Creek focuses on early science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) work, “we said, well then, let’s create a room where kids can really learn about STEM, be inspired by STEM,” said Susan Putaansuu, a gifted and talented specialist at the school who applied for the grant.
Watch the video below to see the transformation.
The goal, explained the room’s designer, Carol Lee, is to give students space to use their imaginations.
“If we can open up the creativity or their passions towards any kind of science … if we can just reach one person, then my job was done,” she said.
The grant is one of 72 the PIE Foundation handed out around Round Rock campuses last year. Combined with other school resources, like virtual reality headsets, the kids can explore the solar system and the tools scientists use to study it.
Parents built the structures out of PVC pipes and other materials. Lee’s friend at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent her big photos of missions to the moon and the Mars rover to add to the command center, where first graders played for the first time on Thursday.
On the other side of the ship’s hull, out in space, students walked on the moon with the help of VR. “Hey, I just saw the man on the moon!” first grader Emma Woodall shouted with excitement to her classmates. Their teacher, meanwhile, guided them through discoveries about the difference between Earth and the moon.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I came in,” said Joshua Gonzalez, board member and vice president of grants with the PIE Foundation. “I was just blown away.”
He saw the finished product for the first time Thursday and was just as excited as the students were. “It took me back to being a kid,” he said.
The classroom will be open to all students at the school.
“They wanted to make the children happy and engaged and proud of their school,” Putaansuu said, “and I’d say mission accomplished.”