January 19, 2011

Astronaut-Like Training Focus Of New Phys Ed Program

NASA, along with a consortium of 14 other international space agencies, is challenging kids to participate in a new fitness program similar to those utilized by astronauts, officials from the US organization's educational outreach program announced on Tuesday.

Roughly 3,700 students from 25 different cities around the world will participate in a six-week trial of the program, entitled "Mission X: Train Like An Astronaut". Participants will be between the ages of eight and 12 and will "learn principles of healthy eating, exercise and compete for points by finishing training modules," the American space agency said in a January 18 press release.

The program will be team-based and will feature exercises that emphasize the same type of skill sets astronauts build upon while training for interstellar missions. Those exercises will improve the pupils' strength, endurance, balance, and coordination while also requiring them to practice scientific reasoning and teamwork during their training, claim NASA officials.

"A part of the human space exploration mission is to inspire our youth to stay in school and master professions in the sciences and engineering fields to carry on this important work well into the 21st century," NASA Human Research Program Education and Outreach Project Manager Charles Lloyd said in a statement. "We believe this starts with our youth in elementary school. We hope this international fitness challenge will assist them with that lifelong endeavor."

Mission X challenge teams from the US, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Colombia, Spain, and the UK will participate in the inaugural six-week program. The team representing America includes 800 fourth-grade students enrolled in the College Station Independent School District (CSISD) in College Station, Texas.

"Mission X is an exciting way to actively involve students in learning the importance of nutrition and physical fitness," CSISD Curriculum Director Becky Burghardt said. "Children are fascinated by the training experiences of astronauts and are motivated to mirror what real-life astronauts do to prepare for space missions."

"Teachers and administrators are hopeful the rich science and physical education experiences designed by NASA will help students become aware of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle," she added.

If successful, NASA and their partners plan to expand the program to include more school in those countries, as well as in other nations in other parts of the world.


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