Holy Family Academy fourth-graders meet NASA scientist

  • Kevin Metrocavage, NASA's International Space Station Operations manager, engaging with Jake Hendricks, Holy Family Catholic Academy fourth-grader.

    Kevin Metrocavage, NASA's International Space Station Operations manager, engaging with Jake Hendricks, Holy Family Catholic Academy fourth-grader. Courtesy of Holy Family Catholic Academy

Posted4/7/2021 1:01 PM

Many girls and boys dream of going to space, but few children have the pleasure of meeting someone who works for NASA, and still fewer have the opportunity to ask a NASA scientist questions about the subject they are studying in fourth grade.

Recently, Holy Family Catholic Academy, Inverness, fourth-grade students were introduced to Kevin Metrocavage, NASA's International Space Station Operations manager and Space Operations Center manager.


Holy Family Catholic Academy's fourth-graders, working on the unit "May the Force be With You," were learning about potential and kinetic energy.

"We often look for outside experts to help students understand the 'why' they learn what they do, along with the 'how' their learning will impact their lives in the future. When one of our parents, Michael Guidry, generously approached me with an introduction to Kevin Metrocavage, NASA's International Space Station Operations manager, the students and I were over the moon," said fourth-grade teacher Debbie Toussaint.

Holy Family Catholic Academy, the only International Baccalaureate World School in Northwest suburban Chicago, is known for its hands-on/minds-on approach to science.

Rather than reading chapters in a textbook and answering questions, Holy Family Catholic Academy students are engaged with hands-on learning that has real world application -- the result of the school's commitment to inquiry-based learning.

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As the name implies, students build critical thinking skills by learning to ask the right questions, developing skills to find the answers, and effectively communicating the results.

Metrocavage presented over Zoom and allowed both in-person and remote learning students to ask questions.

"Speaking with the Holy Family Catholic Academy students was very inspiring. Seeing the energy they expressed and their motivation to learn was so encouraging. They asked some very interesting and thoughtful questions," said Metrocavage, after the presentation.

Student Jake Hendricks thought the session was great.

"I want to be a scientist when I grow up. I learned so much from Mr. Metrocavage about how scientists use energy and how they are even growing plants on the International Space Station."

In addition to the science aspect of Metrocavage's presentation, Holy Family Catholic Academy Principal Kate O'Brien was equally moved by a slide listing the attributes needed to work for NASA.


The list included teamwork, technical knowledge, problem solving skills, effort and integrity.

"These are the same skills our teachers help develop every day in our students from preschool through grade eight. Much like the International Space Station that has had scientists from over 18 different countries working together, our students are learning to be global citizens and will likely work on teams with members from all over the world. These skills are needed for NASA employees and employees in almost every field," O'Brien said.

Looking at the faces of Holy Family Catholic Academy's fourth-grade students, one can only wonder who will be moved by this experience and pursue a career in space.

"These students represent the next generation of explorers, and I appreciate the opportunity to engage with them," Metrocavage said. "The future is definitely bright."

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