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Greenville Elementary School Hams

 Cary Holman, W4GRN

Fourth grade students have eyes on the sky and Technician tickets are the prize.

As exciting as it is to see someone get their first Amateur Radio license, it’s even more exciting to see a roomful do so. But what if that roomful were fourth graders? Yes, fourth graders. That’s what happened in Greenville, Illinois. In four testing sessions spanning 3 months, 17 students at Greenville Elementary School (GES) earned their Technician licenses. But that was after three of their teachers earned their tickets.

It all started two years earlier when teachers at the local elementary school contacted members of the Okaw Valley Amateur Radio Club (OVARC) to ask for help to obtain a NASA Explorer School designation. OVARC, chartered in 1974, has members from seven counties in southwestern Illinois. Fourth grade teacher Donna Carlson read in the application that the school’s chances of getting the NASA Explorer School designation would be improved by working cooperatively with a local Amateur Radio club. Their goal was not only to get the NASA Explorer School designation, but also to have a contact with the International Space Station. The amateurs were glad to help.

In March 2007 three GES fourth grade teachers passed the test for their Technician class license: Donna, KC9LEG; Jackie, KC9LEH, and Karen, KC9LEI. Then Kim, KA9NQK, got involved. She created a PowerPoint presentation for the students to study for their exam. CD copies were made for each of the 20-plus fourth grade students. Club members met students after school to help them get started. The students took their CDs home and got to work. In addition, the teachers conducted study sessions after school.

Tests and Technician Tickets

 After the 2008 Christmas holidays a date was set for the first testing session. Only two students passed during this first session, but three more passed a couple of weeks later. Then in the third testing session nine more students got their ticket and in the fourth testing session three more. All told 17 youngsters were licensed. It was hard to tell who was more excited, the students or their teachers and the volunteer examiners — Jim Thibeault, KF4NBG; John King, W9KXQ; Hope Walker, KA9NRW, and Cary Holman, W4GRN. In May 2009 the students participated in a mini Field Day through a cooperative effort between the local school and the Okaw Valley ARC. Students and their parents were also invited to attend Field Day 2009.

 In April 2010 another 11 students passed their Technician license exams. The OVARC VE Team who trained this group of fourth graders was aided by Delaney, KC9PBB; Taylor, KC9PPE; Kayla, KC9PPF, and Helen, KC9PPG, members of last year’s fourth grade class (now fifth graders) who passed their Technician exams in 2009.

 Greenville Elementary did receive its NASA Explorer School designation and has had a visit from Astronaut Roger Crouch, who flew aboard STS-83 and STS-94 as a Payload Specialist. Greenville is currently waiting to be scheduled for a contact with the International Space Station. The sky is the limit for these new young hams.

 Cary Holman, W4GRN, an ARRL member, was first licensed in May 1984. He upgraded to General and to vanity call W4GRN in August 2006 and then to Extra in June 2008. Cary has served as secretary of the Okaw Valley Amateur Radio Club since 2006.

 Cary’s station consists of a Kenwood TS-570S with a Cushcraft A3S tribander at 65 feet, which he uses for making DX contacts on 20 meters. For VHF/UHF work he has an Alinco DR-570 with a home brew J-pole at 75 feet.

 Cary has taught broadcasting and communication at Greenville College since 1980 and is the general manager of the Greenville College radio station, WGRN 89.5 FM, which you can listen to online at He can be reached at 521 N Locust St, Greenville, IL 62246-1403.




NASA Explorer Schools (NES) provides middle and high school students with authentic learning experiences inspired by NASA's unique missions. NES have access to free teaching and learning resources that promote student engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It provides opportunities for teachers and students to participate in NASA's mission of research and discovery through inquiry-based experiences directly related to the work of NASA scientists and engineers.






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