SANDPOINT — The sun's surface is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, Earth is 93 million miles away, and 1.3 million Earths can fit inside the sun.
These were some of the answers to questions aimed at Farmin-Stidwell Elementary students during a mock press conference Thursday, which was the culmination of their year-long "Space Race" program. First- and second-graders, as well as one third-grader, participated in the "Space Race" in the experiential learning program at Farmin-Stidwell, with teachers Laurie Stevens and Nicole Huguenin.
Twelve of the 15 students in the program held the press conference, where students, staff and family members posed as the press and asked them around 35 questions regarding "Space Race."
"Dr. Olson from Earth Magazine," school principal Erik Olson introduced himself to the kids, garnering light laughter from the crowd before posing his question. "I'm wondering if someone from the panel could tell me Earth's nicknames?"
"The blue planet," answered one student, while another gave a second correct answer, "The water planet."
Some of the questions had simple two or three word answers, but others required more detail. Ellie Manning described learning about the layers of the Earth, which they made a model out of play dough.
"The layers are the inner core, outer core, mantle and crust," Ellie said without skipping a beat before describing how they made the model, starting with a "ball of red play dough." The group added different colors for each layer, she said, and used blue and green for the final touches before cutting it in half to reveal the layers.
One member of "the press" asked panelist Conner McLaughlin to name something he learned during "Space Race" that surprised him.
"That Mars has an atmosphere," he said.
Some of the questions were answered by all the students, one of which was, "Jupiter is a large mass of swirling what?" — "Gas," the kids said in unison.
Name the four gas giants — "Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune," they again said together.
The students knew their stuff, too. They rarely referred to their notes and only one question was asked that no one on the panel knew the answer to. Ellie and her classmate Damian Porter looked it up on a tablet while the others answered a couple of questions in the meantime.
While the students all knew how many Earths could fit inside the sun, the question that stumped them, posed by another student, was "how many Earths could fit inside Jupiter?" The answer — 1,000.
The students worked in small groups on the project throughout the year and kept a "captain's log," Huguenin said. They used their imagination, problem solved, and learned how to use resources to their advantage, she said.
"They really got a lot of background knowledge through this project-based learning, and they were so engaged," Huguenin said. "It just adds that hands-on learning in science. Kids love to know about our world and our universe."
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.