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Looking far out; Youths get closeup of star science in after-school club.

Byline: Lynne Klaft

FITCHBURG - Aldrich Astronomy members Jim Zebrowski and Bob Mersereau brought space suits, moon rocks and a 4.75 billion year old meteorite to the Boys and Girls Club last week.

The duo brings their experience in science, geology and astronomy to a weekly after-school educational outreach program and have been working with club members since last November. The program was recognized by Astronomy Magazine last year for its outstanding performance.

"My goal is to share my interest and passion for astronomy. The kids learn in a relaxed atmosphere, which they can bring back to their classrooms," said Mr. Zebrowski, president of Paxton-based Aldrich Astronomy and a NASA solar system ambassador.

The space suits are lent out to educational programs by the David Clark Co. of Worcester.

"It's a wonderful program; they let us use the suits for events such as this. We'll use anything to draw them in and grab their attention, and then you can teach them anything.

"It gives these kids the opportunity to feel what it's like to wear a suit that real astronauts and jet pilots wear ... and imagine!" said Mr. Zebrowski, who noted that the real suits, fully outfitted, would weigh 60 pounds.

The David Clark Co. manufactures entry and ascent suits, the orange ones that astronauts wear on their way up and down from outer space, as well as headgear for jet pilots. The white suits are used during space walks. Both kinds of suits were available for the students to try on.

Mr. Zebrowski and Mr. Mersereau, a geologist, work with the students every Monday afternoon for two hours on different projects and themes.

"We wanted to experiment with a long-term educational program and it's been truly a learning experience for the both of us.

"We are basically one-on-one with the kids and they always have great questions for us. Kids have an enormous interest in anything to do with outer space. We told them that both boys and girls now have the opportunity to work in the space industry. The most recent commander of the space shuttle was a woman. And there are engineers, educators, media relations, graphic artists, technical specialists ... a wide variety of skill sets are needed and everyone works together as a team.

"Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrich didn't just decide to go to the moon on their own! It took a team.

"We look at this as a powerful learning tool, something we call `under the radar learning,'" Mr. Zebrowski said.

Alejandro Noguera, 9, of Fitchburg came to the Boys and Girls Club after school when his family heard about the program from a neighbor.

"I want to learn about science, it's one of my favorite subjects. We made a volcano the other week and we went outside the other time and saw Mars, it was a red star," Alejandro said.

"I wanted to see what it's like to be in space because we don't get to go there," said 10-year-old Yahnicia Maldonado of Fitchburg.

"They bring in interesting things for us, like the gyroscope (that keeps space craft stabilized). I can't wait to wear one of those space suits. Since we can't actually go to the outer space, they will be fun to try on ... a thankful opportunity," said Yanicia, who is in her second year in the after-school program at the club.

And the moon rocks, well, they kind of look like rocks you see here on Earth.

"Bob always starts out with, `We went to the moon 39 years ago to get these.' They are basalt rocks, and they look reasonably similar to the crust of the Earth," Mr. Zebrowski said.

And what about the theory that the moon came from the part of the Earth where the Pacific Ocean is situated?

"That theory was around when we were young. The current theory is that there were two planets in the Earth's orbit and they collided. The two main bodies formed earth and the debris coalesced into the moon, some say very quickly, like in one day. I don't know about that ... sometimes I think the Pacific Ocean theory still holds water!" said Mr. Mersereau, with a twinkle in his eye.

The school program is funded by the city of Fitchburg CDBG funds and the Bemis Charitable Giving Foundation.

For more information on Boys and Girls Club activities, call (978) 665-3760 or go online at www.boysandgirlsclubncm.org.

For more information on Aldrich Astronomy's educational programs, go online to www.aldrichastro.org.

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Domanique Dudley, 9, of Fitchburg looks at moon rocks through a magnifier during a presentation by the Aldrich Astronomical Society. (2) Jim Zebrowski from the Aldrich Astronomical Society talks to Alejandro Noguera, 9, of Fitchburg, about outer space. (3) Gladynel Rodriguez, 8, of Fitchburg tries on a space suit during a presentation by the Aldrich Astronomical Society.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/RICK CINCLAIR
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 23, 2008
Words:818
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