Bari Pitcher's lifelong love of space inspired her to out together a Space Night event at Neosho Junior High School, Monday.

Bari Pitcher's lifelong love of space inspired her to out together a Space Night event at Neosho Junior High School, Monday.
Space Night brought together students, parents and members of the community who explored space themes while their feet remained firmly on the ground.The event's theme was Exploring New Worlds in Space.
"This was my project," Pitcher, a seventh grade science teacher, said. "I love space and I teach a space class during the summer. The current seventh grade class curriculum doesn't allow me to teach space. Students learn about it (space) in the sixth grade and are tested on it during MAP testing in the eighth."
Pitcher held a similar space night event seven years ago at the former junior high location. "We had a good turnout but not to this magnitude," she stated. Pitcher wanted to hold another Space Night in the new facility that she deemed perfect for the event. "I asked the district and they said 'yes'. My goal was to have 500 in attendance. I think I will blow that out of the water."
Crowds filled the common areas of the junior high school during Space Night.
Popular attractions included a traveling planetarium, Lunar Base Habitats designed by students, face painting, photographs with an astronaut, Hubble picture, a poster walk, performances by the Neosho Wildcat Pride Marching Band and junior high bands, star viewing and a NASA exhibit.
The NASA exhibit, protected by School Resource Officer Phillip Wiseman, included items that traveled to the moon and back, including an astronaut's helmet and gloves. "These are worth $14,000," Wiseman said. The items attracted interest and appreciation from all ages.
"The NASA items were free to borrow," Pitcher said. "But we had to pay for shipping costs so the sponsors helped."
Community sponsors for the event included NASA and the Johnson Space Center, Rhodes Law Office, American Family Insurance and Neosho Graphics.
Seventh grade students met the challenge of creating a Lunar Base Habitat that could accommodate and sustain astronauts on the moon for two years. "This is an actual NASA challenge," Pitcher said. "The winner of the NASA contest will receive a million dollars. I told students that they won't get the million bucks but the team who receives the most Star Tickets will receive a prize." That prize is promised to be a tasty one.
Everyone who attended was given a Star Ticket and asked to vote for their favorite lunar colony. The project with the most Star Tickets would be the winner.
Neosho High School students from both the Key Club and Science Club monitored some of the stations  at Space Night. Senior Garrett Burghart donned a space suit and posed for pictures with the public against a space backdrop. "I talked to Mrs. Pitcher, who set this whole thing up," Burghart said. "She asked if I wanted to suit up and I couldn't pass it up. It's fun!'
Members of both the Neosho Wildcat Pride Marching Band and the junior high bands joined together to present the space-themed halftime show they've performed during football season. The concert filled the air on the courtyard. The courtyard was also the site for some star viewing after 7:30 p.m.
Cookies for the event were baked by the junior high FACS (Family and Consumer Science Class) under the direction of FACS teacher Bobbie Woods.
A special t-shirt contest was also held as part of the event. "We did t-shirts this year," Pitcher said. "I wanted to get all the kids across the district involved so we had an art contest. Our theme was exploring new worlds in space. We had a great turnout in entries from the students."
Face painting, concessions, a poster walk, along with make and take stations were also a highlight of the event. Numerous displays featuring everything from the NASA equipment to starships of the future were also on hand. Pumpkins carved into space themes that included rockets and astronauts were also displayed.
Space Night also launched a new tradition for the junior high. "The district has already said they want to make this an annual event," Pitcher said. Planning for next year's Space Night will begin as soon as the event ends, Pitcher indicated.
The event was planned in conjunction with World Space Week, an annual event that combines space education and outreach events. Schools, planetariums, museums, astronomy clubs, space agencies, and aerospace companies all participate. World Space Week is held each October to commemorate two space milestones, the 1957 launch of Sputnik 1, the first human made earth satellite and the 1967 signing of the Treaty on Principals Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space including the moon and other celestial bodies. Both events occured in October.
In 2016, World Space Week made records with more than 2,700 events in 86 countries around the world. 2017 numbers are predicted to top those numbers.
The Neosho Junior High School is located at 14646  Kodiak Road in Neosho. Students in grades six, seven, and eight are housed in the facility.