La Senita fourth-graders earn national recognition for Cyber Space Day

Lisa McClure, a fourth-grade teacher at La Senita Elementary School, was looking for a way to challenge her pupils before beginning a four-week science unit on out space when she came across the answer in a magazine.

"Cyber Space Day: Living and Working in Space" employs interactive technology to permit children around the country to interact with America's space pioneers to learn about history, challenges and the future of space exploration, according to a press release from Devillier Communications, a public relations firm.

The first-ever Cyber Space Day will be conducted over the Internet at

between 9 a.m.

and noon Arizona time on Thursday May 4.

Devillier spokesman Joyce Winslow said 70 partners are involved in the "Embrace Space" program.

Those partners came up with three problems for pupils in grades 4, 5 and 6 to solve.

One problem is Space Walk Talk (communications challenge) and concerns how astronauts outside an international space station could communicate on a non-verbal level with colleagues inside the station if the radios fail in their space suits.

A second problem is Water Recycle (water purification challenge) in which pupils develop a method to purify water in an international space station.

Problem number three was X-treme Fitness (fitness challenge) in which participants create fun sports, games or exercise equipment for use in a weightless environment.

"I thought water recycling would be too hard," McClure said.

"But the kids had a lot of ideas about communications and immediately started brainstorming."

The "stellar solution" found by McClure's pupils was submitted via the Internet, along with a two-page report she did on steps taken in solving the problem.

It was one of 12 design solutions, along with one honorable mention, that will be recognized during Cyber Space Day.

Winslow said four stellar solutions in each of the three categories will be recognized.

Those schools will receive a telescope from Bushnell Sports Optics Worldwide that is autographed by astronaut John Glenn, plus smaller prizes ranging from maps to T-shirts from the 70 partners that should maintain pupil interest in space, Winslow said.

Pupils in McClure's class created 4- by 5-inch triangular leather slaps covered with florescent dye to increase visibility in the vacuum of space.

They are color coded to cover basic situations that may arise as follows: Green means pull me in; Blue means I can't breath or am not getting enough oxygen; Red means stop where you are; Yellow means I need help; Fuscia means I am stuck and can't move; Orange means something is on fire; and Purple means I am injured.

Pupils had from Feb.

1 until March 31 to work on their chosen problem.

Winslow did not know the exact number of entries received but said it was in the hundreds.

Space Day 2000 Design Challenges was designed by educators at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, which examined all the entries and narrowed the field to 60 and then to a final 12, Winslow said.

The live Internet broadcast on Thursday will be divided into hourly segments as follows:

"Hour One: A Day in Space" will begin with interviews with Glenn and Dan Goldin, NASA administrator.

Other guests will join host Miles O'Brien of CNN during the hour.

A student Design Challenge team will demonstrate its solution to the water purification challenge.

"Hour Two: Challenges in Space" will be hosted by ABC's Carol Simpson and will focus on the problems of working in space.

Guests will include Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel in space, and Gen.

John Dailey, director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

A student Design Challenge team will demonstrate its solution to the communications challenge and McClure's fourth-grade class will be mentioned.

"Hour Three: Where Do We Go from Here?" will be hosted by veteran journalist Melinda Wittstock.

The hour will deal with what the next generation may learn in space during the 21st century, and a student Design Challenge team will offer its solution to staying fit in space.

Guests will include Dr.

John Charles, the man responsible for the health of NASA astronauts on long-duration space flights.