Area school students pose for pictures during the The Mars Missions Flight, an AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory) classroom based Mars colonization simulation Tuesday at the Yucca Center.(Mark Wilson Photo)
The Yucca Recreation Centerâ€™s gym was transformed into the surface of Mars Tuesday for a handful of Roswell elementary school students.
Children from four schools participated in the Air Force Research Laboratoryâ€™s La Luz Academy, a Kirtland Air Force Base and New Mexico Tech outreach program aimed at raising student interest in science, technology, engineering and math.
The Martians were tasked with simulating their mission to Mars, which, among other duties, meant constructing a habitat and workstation suitable for the living.
The project is intended to be a hands-on learning experience that will ultimately show the students from Missouri Avenue, Pecos, Valley View and Washington Avenue elementary schools that education can be more than taking tests, said Ronda Cole, director of the Air Force Research Laboratory.
â€œOur whole goal is to get students excited about science, technology, engineering and math,â€ Cole said.
â€œTo me, weâ€™re starting to peak their curiosity.â€ Teachers who spent the day on the red planet agreed.
â€œIt just adds so much more,â€ said Margaret Bohlin, of Valley View Elementary School. The idea of hands-on learning was not lost on Bohlinâ€™s students, either.
â€œInstead of sitting down and writing papers, I like this better,â€ said Israel Gutierrez, a 10-year -old Valley View student.
Other students agreed. â€œYou get to study more stuff and actually have fun with it,â€ said Demetrio Gallegos, 11. The Air Force Research Laboratory will be conducting a similar event in Albuquerque next week, Cole said, adding that she hopes Roswell schools will become more involved with the program in years to come.