An out of this world after school program connects kids with outer space

Getting kids excited about outer space isn’t rocket science for one pastor. He’s getting them to shoot for the moon and learn about the planets from an actual rocket scientist. It’s all part of an after school program that gives kids a one-of-a-kind look at the solar system.

The Astra after school program has always been out of this world. But that idea was put to the test when kids got to speak with an engineer from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Engineer Kristina Larson took Carterville kids on a virtual journey through the solar system Wednesday from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Larson showed off her work on the Dawn Mission, exploring dwarf planets Vesta and Ceres in the Asteroid Belt. Kids say they loved every minute of it.

"I really liked the snowman on the planet, I forget which one it was though. It was pretty cool!" said Abby Banovz, a Carterville kid in the Astra program.

"I thought it was really cool learning about space," said Nick Schlindwein, a Carterville kid in the Astra program.

Astra works with kids on all things outer space, from building rockets to talking with astronauts. Chatting firsthand with a JPL Engineer was a first for kids and Pastor Bob Morwell, who runs the after school program from First United Methodist in Carterville.

"I’m a total space geek, that’s the reason we do this, why we use this theme. And JPL is pretty much the premiere space exploration organization on the planet so that was pretty neat,” said Bob Morwell, pastor at First United Methodist Church.

Kids say they learned a lot from talking with the engineer, but kids say at the end, they learned one main thing. "We love space!" kids shouted.

Kids say talking with a real life rocket scientist makes them want to work in outer space when they grow up, too.

The Astra after school program is free for kids attending the Carterville Intermediate School. For more information, contact the church at 618-985-4511.

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