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Sharon Elementary Students Spell Fitness N-A-S-A

Thanks to physical education teacher Tim Vigorito, Sharon is part of Mission X, a six-week physical fitness challenge spanning the globe.

Astronauts would recognize some of the agility drills and nutrition lessons Sharon's third, fourth and fifth-graders have done for the past month.

And on March 30, will watch a live Webcast from NASA.

All because Heights physical education teacher and Sharon Public Schools health and wellness facilitator Tim Vigorito looked to the stars at age 2, and has never stopped looking at the sky.

Sharon's three elementary schools are part of Team USA in Mission X: Train Like An Astronaut, a six-week, international fitness and nutrition challenge. Three school districts are on Team USA. Heights students started on Feb. 3. and joined last Friday, March 2.

And from June 5 to June 8, Vigorito will represent NASA and Houston-area aerospace firms in testifying before Congress on the importance of manned space exploration.

Vigorito says his lifelong interest in space flight and educating students about it led NASA this summer to invite Sharon to participate in Mission X.

"My Mom took me outside to watch Sputnik in transit overhead," Vigorito says.

"I caught the space bug then."

Now, Sharon students are doing scaled-down versions of about 15 exercises designed for astronauts.

"We have an exercise designed for balance, to show the balance and stability of an astronaut, where the children stand on one foot and balance and try to catch a tennis ball bouncing off the wall," Vigorito explains.

Students' success in an activity earns them points.

"One of the things that NASA is very concerned with is the obesity level among school-age children, and the diabetes level of school-age children," says Vigorito, who works on the effort at Heights with physical education teacher Stephie Fine. Physical education teachers Don Brooks, Justin Monahan and Steve Denneno are teaching the activities at East and Cottage.

Students also are helping Mission X mascot Astro Charlie walk from the Earth to the moon.

The Mission X website notes that "Every point contributed from every country gets us a step closer to our goal," as students complete activities.

"I'm having a little contest here. I'm asking the students how many steps they think it will take Astro Charlie to get to the moon," says Vigorito, who has blogged about Sharon's efforts on the Mission X website.

"What they do is they calculate how many steps makes a lap in the gym, and how many laps create a mile."

Some students have spoken directly with NASA this winter.

A Heights third-grade classroom had a Skype conversation with Yamil Garcia at Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston on Feb. 8.

"Mr. Garcia answered our questions about keeping fit in space and what it is like to fly in zero-gravity. He got to do that recently, just like the astronauts do when they train for their missions," blogged Vigorito, who has run a volunteer Space Camp indoor recess program at Heights for the past five years.

In addition, students under the direction of Heights music teacher Scott Tarantino have recorded a song, "UFO," and hope to record a second one, "Defying Gravity," this week, Vigorito says.

The school plans to upload the songs to YouTube for Mission X, for sending to the International Space Station, he says.

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