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Ahfachkee's 1st Grade Class Has 1st Class Trip To Cape Kennedy

By Marlin Billie

CAPE KENNEDY -- History was made and learned, March 2, when Ahfachkee first graders boarded the Tribal jet for a day visit to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) famous John F. Kennedy Space Center. WOW!

Tuesday morning the children were told to be at the school at 7:15 for breakfast, then load the plane at 8 a.m. Fifteen out of 17students showed up ready for the trip.

Chaperones included Ms. Jennifer McDuffie, head teacher; Martha Doctor, teacher's aide; Patrick McElroy, Education Dept.; and Marlin Billie of the Tribune staff. The Stewardess greeted us.

Connie Haught helped buckle the children into their seats. There was a lot of nervousness and excitement, giggles and big grins. Many were anticipating their their first plane ride, while others were experienced frequent flyers. No one, however,had ever been on the Seminole Tribe's big Gulfstream jet.

The seats were big enough for us to seat everyone comfortably, as the video screen begun with the movie 'Antz' . The movie settled everyone down right before take off. Dr. Sharon Byrd-Gaffney then gave an impassioned speech to the children about "the importance of the trip and the behavior for the Seminole Tribe as a whole, not only the school."

The ride took 25 minutes to the Cocoa Beach airport -- we were there before 9 a.m. Our tour began at 10, so we had to drive to the visitor's center, get our passes and be ready for the Tour.

Our tour guide had with her a large box on wheels with many different toys about the space ships and other things to demonstrate the actual process of blast off and what will happen.

She first named our mission name 'Ahfachkee I' and gave everyone a sticker "mission patch." We went through the actual Discovery capsule and saw things they had to use and where they had to sit, eat, and perform the scientific experiments. We were then shown the food astronauts eat. Because there is no weight in space, food must be frozen and reshaped into a jelly or liquid.

After we learned about the rocket boosters and what purpose they serve, we got to see an astronaut in full gear. Boy, that sure looked heavy walking around. And hot too!

Next came the IMAX movie in 3-D titled "Living in the First City in Space." This movie was really something -- first it's a movie about a city made by all of the things we are building up in space right now. Things seem to jump off the screen and bring you into the picture. All of the kids and chaperones enjoyed this movie -- we also got to sit in the front row and enjoy popcorn and drinks during the show.

After lunch, in which we enjoyed cheeseburgers, hot dogs and fries, we were ready for more of this space stuff. We then loaded up the tour bus hoping for the bus all to ourselves - we got it. This tour took us to around the site where they build the Space Shuttle, the loading platform, fill the tanks with the gases and all the things that aid the launching - even the launching pads. There sure is a lot that goes into the planning and building and adjusting to the weather. We were then taken to the recreation site of the Apollo 9 control center. There we watched as the time went back to the actual launching day, the original control panels and original tape recording of the countdown. Boy, what a day!

This was our last stop for the touring part, now the children had time to go into the gift shop, and buy something.

We were to load the plane around 4 p.m., but things went beyond, to 4:30. Everyone was glad the day was over,even though it was fun! The trip really did teach us all something, and Ahfachkee staff should be proud of the behavior the children displayed. We would all like to thank Chairman Billie for the jet plane ride. We learned a lot and it was great!

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