The students and staff at Buffalo Creek Middle School in Palmetto won’t soon forget where they were for #SolarEclipse2017. While students from the School District of Manatee County were limited to watching the event safely indoors, this group had a guest speaker that was “out of this world!”
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a former astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, made a stop at the school while visiting the area. He was joined by his son, Bill Nelson, Jr., staff and deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene attended the event, along with School Board Chair Charlie Kennedy, Vice-Chair John Colon, and Board Member Scott Hopes. After greeting Buffalo Creek’s Cafeteria Manager and two school nurses in the hallway, the U.S. Senator made his way into the cafeteria amid cheers and clapping.
With two giant screens playing out the historical event on television, the former astronaut used a lamp and a globe to teach a science lesson about the Solar Eclipse. Afterwards, he took questions from an audience of approximately 300 students, such as “How do you go to the bathroom in space?” “Very carefully,” joked the Florida Senator.
In January 1986, Sen. Nelson became the first sitting member of the United States House of Representatives to fly in space. He flew as a Payload Specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia. The Senator also shared his experiences eating in space, how it feels to be weightless, when he thinks an American will travel to Mars, and what tragic events led to the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters.
About an hour after speaking to students and staff, Eleanor, an eighth grader, found herself in the middle of a press junket — surrounded by television, radio, and newspaper reporters. When Sen. Nelson was finished answering questions, he looked around for the young woman. “I promised her a photo,” he said, “She mentioned that she was taking them for the school yearbook.”
Senator Nelson left a lasting impression on the Hawks. Students got a science lesson from a prominent figure on a day that will appear in future history books. The next time you’re at Buffalo Creek Middle School check out their newest gift, a signed poster from a former astronaut.
#WeManatee stands for We are the School District of Manatee County. No matter what challenges we face, we strengthen each other when we stand together.