That just about every student in Linda Canobbio's
advanced physical-science class uses the word exciting to describe the journey before them is understandable.
Canobbio's eighth graders at Williamstown Middle School
are the only class in New Jersey - and one of just over 30 in the nation - invited by NASA
to work side by side with scientists on a project at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University
The invitation came as the result of an idea by Canobbio
and the commitment by her
13- and 14-year-olds to study avalanches and physical forces in coordination with the program at Arizona State.
They are confident they will reach that goal, said Canobbio
, who, like her
husband and 14 parent-chaperones, is paying her
bought the 40-pound bag of sand from Home Depot
.The dirt - Jersey dirt, the class calls it - was from her
backyard.The water, from school faucets, is squirted from a plastic ketchup bottle she
bought at a dollar store.
knew we were using a ketchup bottle, they'd laugh," Canobbio
...How the class came upon this opportunity is a tribute to the tenacity of Canobbio, a teacher for more than 35 years, the last five at the middle school.
"Every year, I look for a hook," she
said.Last year, her
class followed a deep-sea exploration off California.
At a National Science Teachers Association
talked to NASA
about participating in a space project.She
learned of the Arizona State program and decided "this is it."
But the first idea Canobbio and her
class pursued in the fall - a study involving how light impacts Mars - was rejected because the sun and Mars would not be in good alignment when the class did its research.
"I was devastated," Canobbio
After attending a seminar at Arizona State, she
came up with Plan B: the study of avalanches on the Red Planet.
"The kids have worked hard," she
said."The parents have been wonderful."