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Fourth Graders Name Rocket City Space Pioneers' Lander "Spirit of Alabama"

A lot of hard work finally paid off yesterday with a major milestone occurring in Pelham, Alabama, which is a few miles south of Birmingham.  One special fourth-grade class at Valley Intermediate School named our lander “Spirit of Alabama” and was recognized for it! 

We visited the students with a seemingly normal space educational presentation, which turned into a huge surprise announcement that they were the final winners of the three-day Pathfinder trip to Space Camp™ in Huntsville. It was so cool to see the faces of the students. Students made comments like, “This is the best day of my life!” and “I love space!” It does not get any better than that – to see these students get so excited about the out-of-this-world experience they will get sometime between now and the end of the school year. 

They asked their teacher if they could go before spring break, which for them is the week after next. 

Mrs. McDonald was just as excited as the students – not only because she gets to attend Space Camp with her students, but also because she received a $500 gift card for classroom supplies. Her students were already giving her a list yesterday of items she needs to purchase. 

We were very fortunate to have a couple of enthusiastic Space Camp trainers, Sara Biwer and Kimberly Stockton,  join us at the event to tell the students what an amazing adventure they were about to embark upon.  They brought a gift for each of the students – cool sunglasses. 

The student’s eyes really lit up as Sara described the Shuttle simulator and the serious challenges they might face. The students were tuned in and ready to take on any challenge. 

A little friendly competition was already getting underway between the girls and the boys. 

Mrs. McDonald said the students came up with a list of about 10 names, but decided that “spirit” was a good word to capture what they wanted.  Our judges thought that, too, and so do we. 

She told the students it is all about teamwork, and they will certainly get to experience that at the amazing Space Camp. 

Our event got good local news coverage. We were excited to bring something positive to the news. Here is one story. Special guests included Mr. Randy Fuller, superintendent of Shelby County Schools, and Mrs. Malissa Valdes-Hubert, communications manager for the Alabama Department of Education. 

We can’t wait to visit Mrs. McDonald and her class when they come to Huntsville. We know they will have an awesome experience. 

Thank you for our name, Mrs. McDonald’s fourth-grade class, and thank you fourth graders and their teachers throughout the state of Alabama who participated in our contest. And special thanks to our partners, Alabama Tourism, the Alabama Department of Education, and Space Camp.

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