First-graders show compassion for astronauts

Soda Creek students create cards, drawings to send to NASA in light of Columbia disaster

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— As news of the space shuttle Columbia's explosion shocked people around the globe, Soda Creek Elementary School first-grader David Kissane reacted naturally to the tragic event.

He cried.

"I heard about it on the news and I went in my room and cried," David said.

David's teacher, Tracy Bye, caught the news in the midst of a car ride with her husband and son.

"I know how hard it affected my son, and I thought my class would be affected the same way," Bye said.

The following day, after discussing the explosion that killed all seven astronauts aboard Columbia, Bye and her 16 first-grade students decided to do something that would help them cope with the crash.

In typical first-grade fashion, colorful drawings and heart-wrenching letters ensued.

"They were sad," Bye said. "And you can tell by the little things they wrote that they care."

Now, the colorful drawings and computer-typed letters addressed to other astronauts and their families hang in the school's main hallway.

"Dear astronauts, I hope you feel better soon. I feel sad, too," David wrote.

"Dear astronauts, I hope you feel better soon about the seven astronauts that died. I think astronauts are cool!" Alice Holmquist wrote.

"I drew a picture of the world and hearts around it so (astronauts) know that we like astronauts a lot and that we cared that they died," Alice explained.

Lena Barker drew a picture of the space shuttle flying over the moon. A large American flag sticks straight up from the surface of the moon.

"Dear astronauts, I hope your hearts feel better. I know it is a sad time for you and you must miss your friends," she wrote.

Bye said the class intends to assemble the pictures and letters into a book, which will be sent to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Bye is an acquaintance of an astronaut whom she intends to send the book to, she said.

The drawings and letters are a perfect example of the love and friendship virtues adopted by the school district for the month of February, Bye said.

But more importantly, the pictures represent a wonderful characteristic shared by many children.

"I think, by nature, kids are so compassionate," Bye said.

"They know they like people to take care of them when they're having a bad day."

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