Students from two local schools created postcards that will be launched into space
Students at two Kennesaw schools might never own a moon rock, but they are expecting to possess the next best thing — an item that’s been flown into space and back.
Blue Origin, an aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight services provider based in Kent, Washington, started Club for the Future in 2019 to inspire younger generations to envision a future life in space. As part of the program, students are invited to participate in Postcards to Space, where they draw or write a message on a postcard that will be launched on one of Blue’s future New Shepard missions, stamped with “Flown to Space” and returned to them.
In the spring, former Kennesaw resident Ronnie Sullivan, a senior design engineer at Blue’s Florida facility, asked his wife, Lisa Sullivan, and sister, Tiffany Stevens, to have their classes at Northwest Classical Academy (NCA) and North Cobb Christian School (NCCS), respectively, create postcards to help meet the goal of sending 1 million cards into space.
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity to engage the younger generation and spark interest in our space program,” Ronnie said. “My interest in aerospace was launched by my fourth-grade class trip to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. Later, this desire was solidified when my sister, who, at the time, was a newspaper reporter, took me along for an interview that she was conducting for a story about Skylab astronaut Edward Gibson. Therefore, I am very passionate about making sure that the torch is passed to our younger generation. Who knows how far that generation will go toward our goal of ‘millions of people living and working in space?’”
He soon found he isn’t the only one who’s fascinated by space — there was more interest in the program than just his wife’s first-grade class and his sister’s pre-K4 class. All 75 first-graders, plus five teachers, at NCA participated, and he received roughly 375 postcards from students and teachers in pre-K3 through fourth grade at NCCS.
Most of the cards featured rockets, planets and star-filled skies, and since Lisa’s class had just completed a unit on planets and the moon’s phases, several students drew a rocket headed to the moon.
“The response was incredible,” Ronnie said. “I had the opportunity to look at each postcard and was really impressed by the enthusiasm and talent shown by these students. Also, I am very excited for the students because when I was their age, items that had been to space were only in museums. I still cherish the first item that I acquired that had been to space and back.”
The students are stoked as well about possessing something that will have left Earth’s atmosphere and returned home.
“They were over the moon,” Lisa said. “They continually asked when the postcards would cross the Karman Line [which represents the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space] and come back to them.”
Tiffany said her preschoolers “did not think it was possible for them to ever own something that has been flown in space.”
“I have several students in my class who love space shuttles and rockets and are always asking questions about space, so we watched several of Blue Origin’s launches while in class,” she said. “When the opportunity presented itself, the kids were so excited about having a postcard sent to space.”
Initially, Tiffany said she was going to get just her class to create the cards but decided to include the other K4 class “so we could enjoy doing the project as a grade level.”
“When I ran the idea by my principal, she was so excited, she asked if we could get enough cards for the entire lower school, so all grade levels from K3 to fourth grade were able to participate,” she said, noting teachers were just as excited as the kids. “Twenty-one classes participated.”
Lisa said space and rocketry have “always been exciting for students,” and she even developed a love for rockets after marrying an aerospace engineer.
“I want to share this with my students,” she said. “They love learning about the unknown. In my classroom … I have True Story Friday. I often use these stories to teach a life lesson or teach something cool that may not be included in the curriculum. With ‘Mr. Ronnie’ working at Blue Origin, it just created a perfect opportunity for me to integrate both.”
The teachers said they hope the project has ignited their students’ curiosity about space since exploring it appears to be an integral part of the future.
“This opened up the door to many classroom discussions about space travel and how it is possible,” Tiffany said. “Several students said they wanted to go into space when they grow up. I told them they are watching history, and with the advancements in technology, going to space is a real possibility for them when they are older.”
Lisa said it’s “really important to spark an interest” in space in students’ minds at an early age.
“Projects like Club for the Future show children that they can make a difference,” she said. “They teach there are no goals in life that are out of reach. This project has taught my first-graders to reach for the stars, follow their dreams.”
She added she hopes she’s stirred up the same excitement about aerospace in her students that her husband’s teacher stirred up in him.
As for when students will receive their piece of history, Ronnie said the high volume of postcards received makes it impossible for Club for the Future to pinpoint a return date, but “just know that our team works very hard to get these returned.”
– Donna Harris