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Kids ‘explore’ space at Mission Control: Mars Rover Challenge

They discover, name ‘planet,’ build rovers to explore it in library program

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
4 Photos
Kids use their imagination to create craters in an “alien surface” before they start working on building rovers outside La Center Community Library on Monday afternoon.
Kids use their imagination to create craters in an “alien surface” before they start working on building rovers outside La Center Community Library on Monday afternoon. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

LA CENTER — Barely 50 years after mankind’s first trip to the moon, a group of kids explored space, discovered and named a new planet and built their own rovers to explore it.

On the front lawn of the La Center Community Library, about 15 kids sat under a shade tent on Monday afternoon; they were mission control, recording what their “telescopes” had seen on the planet around the corner. With each scouting trip, the kids acting as telescopes were able to get closer and closer to the “planet” and reported back on it with increasing detail.

Experiential Learning Librarian Jamie Bair led the kids through the program called Mission Control: Mars Rover Challenge with the help of volunteers and other library staff.

“Our goal is to provide these enriching activities to keep them playing and creating throughout the summer,” she said.

The 90-minute program started with kids guessing what they might find on their newly discovered planet.

“Space rocks!” one kid called out.

“Furry monsters!” said another.

“Unicorns!” said a third.

The last report from the telescopes came in right before mission control traveled to the planet themselves. They found out that the yellow squiggles spotted earlier were actually pasta; that boat or tree they’d seen was actually a mountaintop.

It all seemed to make sense once the kids in mission control made their own trek to the planet — a small beach ball festooned with glued-on noodles and stuffed into a bush near the library stairs.

The group gathered around to discuss how the reports compared to what they saw. They decided to name the planet after one of the library’s volunteers.

Stephanie Sanders of Amboy was there with her 11-year-old son, Ethan, and her grandkids, Halona, 4, and Alex, 5. Sanders tries to get them to a program at least once a week. She said she sits down with them and shows them their options.

Sanders said she’s willing to drive as far as 30 minutes for one of the library’s programs, and with Yacolt, Woodland, Battle Ground and La Center all within 30 minutes of home, they end up with lots of options. She said the kids were excited about this event.

“They chose this one,” Sanders said.

Bair said the program draws in young imaginations with its variety of topics and hands-on approach. She said her favorite part is when the kids build their own rovers out of straws, plastic lids and construction paper.

“They all start out with the same stuff,” she said. “By the end of it, they’ve all had success.”

As kids were leaving, one told Bair: “I think this is the best experiment ever.”

“I’m going to work for NASA,” said another one.

Jennifer Ivey was there with her 7-year-old son, Connor. She said that he really likes science. When Connor finished his rover, he said he was going to decorate it when he got home.

“I can’t wait to show my dad,” he said.

The Mission Control: Mars Rover Challenge has a few more stops this summer according to the Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries website. The schedule for this and any other event through the library can be found at fvrl.org.

Columbian staff writer
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