In April I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship/grant to attend Space Camp for Educators at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Yes, this is the space camp that you saw commercials for as a kid. Never would I have thought of myself as someone who would attend Space Camp, but when you get the chance to go for free, why not?! I am so glad that I took advantage of this opportunity because it was an amazing experience and I know I will be able to use many of the resources we were given to create new curriculum for my students.
When my colleagues found out about my upcoming adventure, they wanted to go too. Two other teachers in my building applied and were able to get on the waiting list, luckily other teachers were unable to attend and they got to go too. It was great sharing this experience with friends, and it will make our new lessons so much better because we will be able to collaborate when we write them.
We decided to drive to Huntsville, and the drive took us through Nashville. Of course we had to stop for lunch! We decided to stop at Pharmacy Burger. I highly recommend it, the burgers and fries were awesome, and the homemade cream soda was delicious!
In Huntsville we stayed at the University of Alabama Huntsville. Back to dorm life for us! When we checked in we were given our backpacks and flights suits and then had time to settle in before our adventure began the next day.
On our first day we began with breakfast and some introductions to the other teachers that were there too. There were a total of 8 of us that made up team Destiny which included teachers from Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Texas. Eight was such a perfect number because we truly had a chance to get to know everyone and build great relationships.
The grounds of the Space and Rocket Center are cool on their own. They have many replicas of rockets and a museum. During our week we were able to explore the grounds and museum and I even had a chance to rock climb for the first time!
The focus of our week was professional development. We learned about how the U.S. is going to go back into space as we make our way to Mars. It is pretty crazy to think that I am teaching students who could be the first people to go to Mars. We had a speaker who works for NASA who led us in different space themed activities that we can use with our students that were great teamwork activities, and we even got to hear from an astronaut who has been to space multiple times! The amount of curriculum resources I brought home is unbelievable! I can’t wait to spend time going through them and writing some new classes that involve hands on space themed activities. Of course we got to build and launch rockets. Mine went pretty far, but it must have landed in a tree because I was unable to find it after the launch.
We had the opportunity to visit the NASA Marshall Flight Center which is on the Redstone Arsenal military base. While there we had the opportunity to see a command center for the International Space Station. It was pretty cool to learn about all the different jobs that people do on the ground that make it possible for amazing things to happen on the International Space Station. We also had the opportunity to talk to a welder who is making one of the parts of the SLS (Space Launch System) that will go to Mars. Sadly, I couldn’t take any pictures of the part of the rocket we saw, but it was awesome to be in the same room as a BIG rocket part.
We also had the opportunity to do “kid” like Space Camp activities such as the Multi Axis Trainer and the 1/6 Gravity Chair. The Multi Axis Trainer is the thing that spins you around and looks like it would make you sick, it is designed to simulate the tumble you would feel as you reenter Earth’s atmosphere. Actually, it doesn’t make you sick because you are rotating in so many different ways that you never spin the same way twice in a row and your stomach stays centered. It was fun and went pretty fast. The 1/6 Gravity Chair simulates walking on the Moon in micro gravity. They had us bunny hop, leap to the side like a ballerina, and run in slow motion. The leaping was my favorite, and the slow running was actually pretty hard, my body kept swinging from side to side.
Of course during the week we had to have some “adult” fun time too. After dinner on a few nights we spent some time exploring some breweries and restaurants around Huntsville. We visited Straight to Ale and Rosie’s Cantina. I am not a beer drinker, but Straight to Ale had a speakeasy with some awesome mixed drinks. Straight to Ale was unlike and brewery I had been to before because it was inside an old middle school. To get into the speakeasy you even had to go behind some old lockers!
On the last day we had a graduation ceremony where they introduced each of us and flipped our name badges on our flight suits so the were right side up (before graduating you must wear your name badge upside down).
It was such a great experience, really unlike anything I have ever done before. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to participate and I can’t wait to see how excited my students get when I start doing some of the new activities!