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Zuni Hills students to chat with astronaut aboard space station

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  • Erin Dunsey/ Peoria Unified School District

International Space Station

Students at Zuni Hills Elementary School are scheduled to participate in a unique event just before 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 22. Sixth-grade science teacher, Jennifer Cheesman, will lead the effort to coordinate an Amateur Radio International Space Station radio contact between her students and astronauts aboard the ISS.

In the spring of 2014, Cheesman’s students submitted questions to the NASA mailbox outside Cheesman’s classroom and a panel of teachers selected the top 20 to be asked during the ARISS contact. One student from each grade was selected to ask the astronaut a question.

Zuni Hills students to chat with astronaut aboard space station InternationalSpaceStationARISS contacts are real-time radio communications between students and an astronaut living aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Contact will be made via telebridge which acts as a connection between the school and the space station. As the space station passes over the telebridge radio station, it allows for contact to be made.

Students will set-up in the multi-purpose room waiting for the call to go through at 10:47 a.m. and will be able to listen to astronaut Gregory “Reid” Wiseman from the United States answering their questions. The radio contact will allow students, staff and guests to learn why science is important on board the ISS. Kevin Wesolowski, a local HAM operator, will assist with the technical side of the event as well as educate the student body in how amateur radio plays a part in their daily lives.

ARISS contacts are used to encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math related careers. Students will be able to ask the pre-written questions and receive immediate responses from an astronaut in space during the event. Only 25-30 ARISS contacts occur in the United States each year through the program. This program is made possible by NASA’s Teaching from Space Office and the international ARISS community.

Any media who wishes to attend this event should RSVP to Erin Dunsey at or by calling 623-486-6041.

The Peoria Unified School District serves more than 36,000 students in 34 elementary schools, seven high schools and one non-traditional high school and was the first district in the state to receive the prestigious AdvancED Accreditation. With ongoing open enrollment and unique educational opportunities, the district boasts a 95 percent high school graduation rate. Peoria Unified prides itself on excelling schools, award-winning teachers, high AIMS test scores, specialized signature programs and championship sports programs.