Some children gripped small American flags Friday morning as they
observed moments of silence and sang “America the Beautiful.”
About 400 children from Disney Elementary School assembled on the
campus blacktop to memorialize the crew of the space shuttle
Columbia. All seven astronauts on board died Feb. 1 when the craft broke apart about 40 miles over Texas as it headed to Florida to
The children assembled in a semi-circle as the names of the
astronauts were read and a moment of silence was observed. The
school’s curriculum specialist, Cris Watson, reminded students that
the mission united cultures for science and learning.
“They could be part of that and realize that dream in our
educational mission here,” Watson said.
As part of an ongoing effort to teach the diverse student
population about American customs and values, the students assemble
outside each month for a flag ceremony.
“America the Beautiful” was chosen because of its reference to the
skies and patriotic symbolism, Watson said, adding the ceremony is
essentially a teaching tool. They also sang “The Star-Spangled
Friday was a culmination of a week in which the disaster was not
far from young peoples’ minds. Students in Burbank schools were given
the opportunity to express themselves on the tragedy.
“Teachers waited for the children to bring it up,” Jefferson
Middle School Principal Lynne Perske said.
Because the disaster occurred on the weekend and parents and
children had a couple of days to digest it, teachers didn’t overwhelm
elementary school students with information, she said.
“The whole world feels sorry for the loss of Columbia,” wrote
Matteo Dal Monte, a 9-year-old Jefferson Elementary School student,
in an essay. “We hope to build safer shuttles and never let a tragedy
like this happen again.”
Writing was the most immediate way to express himself, Matteo
“When I learned about Columbia, I had to do something,” he said.