Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

Blog posts from Maryland teachers

During the week of June 22, 33 middle and high school school math and science teachers from the Baltimore area were in Huntsville, Al., participating in the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program.

These teachers applied for and were awarded scholarships for this week-long program, during which they took part in astronaut-style training and simulations, and worked together on educational activities. The goal was for them to carry back what they learned from the experiences to their classrooms to help students gain a better appreciation for math and science.

Throughout their week at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, several of these educators served as "teacher/reporters" for our InsideEd blog, sending us updates about what they did and learned.

Sunday, June 21 - From Sabourah Abdunafi of ConneXions Community Leadership Academy in Baltimore.

The first day of camp was filled with excitement. We started with a wonderful breakfast. I met so many people from Maryland. That was one of the best feelings in the world: We always hear people speak of Maryland's educational system being so low and we have over 30 teachers here. Every activity we had, the leaders would ask where you are from, and someone would say Maryland. I could hear a few people saying -- here we go, or another one? We are really representing here!

The team-building activity was my favorite part of the day. This is something that we do in advisory at my school and it really works. We got into a circle and went around, saying our name, I'm going to space camp, and I'm bringing some item or person. Then each person would repeat until we got to the end of the circle saying each name and what they are bringing. At the end of the activity, I knew everyone's name. At no time during the day did I have to say what's your name?

Then we did a second activity that I've also done with my advisory, where everyone is in a circle and each person grabs the hands of a person across the circle to make a human knot. We were doing well with this from the beginning. Everyone communicated and we were getting loose. Then a group member, Luis, had to let go because he was afraid he would throw out his back. I was worried about him because it happened to me once before. Another group member recommended that we start over and try again -- and we did. It was nice to see that Luis didn't want to quit. The second time I was stuck, tangled, under the group and Luis threw his back out. A few people let go and the remainder of the group continued. The activity was all about communication and teamwork and my group, DESTINY, is all about both.

We then toured the Davidson Center Museum. It was amazing. When you see rockets launch on TV or watch movies about space shuttle missions, you really have no idea the size of these machines. We were taking pictures and we couldn't get the entire rocket into the photo from any angle. We learned about all of the women who have been in space, saw the patches that represent each space shuttle mission, discussed the issues with each of the missions and how they learned from them and improved for the next one. Thinking back as I write, it reminds me of all of the things that you do in a classroom to get your students thinking.

We were in and out of buildings, going from heat to A/C to heat again, then we went to lunch. The food was like school lunch -- sandwiches, chips, salad, soda and water. Nothing to really write home about. But what came after lunch was the beginning of why we are here.

We had shuttle orientation. We learned some of the acronyms used in shuttle missions. I was so beat during this from the heat that I found myself nodding. I guess that's what my students feel like after a morning of classes, lunch and recess. The difference I found was that regardless of how exhausted I was beginning to feel, I wouldn't fall asleep because I knew that there was something I really wanted to learn. I may need to rethink the way I present my information sometimes when I return to school in the fall so no matter how tired my students are, they will find a way to see it through the lesson to the end and own their education.

We had a mission overview where we learned about the functions of personnel on the mission and applied for positions. Then we created a bottle rocket and launched it outside of the classroom. It is amazing what you can do with the basics from around the house. We broke into groups of three and four, and using a soda bottle, cardboard, tape, clay and water, we made bottle rockets. Simple yet amazing.

To end the day, we had a run-through of the discovery mission, going into space to repair a satellite. The walk-through was so difficult and confusing. Again, that's how our students feel when they come into our classes. I was required to be in two places, learning two positions at once. Then during the mission I had to communicate between two groups of people, and monitor what was going on in both places for safety. It was scary to think that this is what people have done, then it was amazing to know that it has been done and I can do it too! That is the feeling that I am excited to come home and instill in my students. No matter how difficult things are, you can do it if you set your mind to it.

My night ended with me hanging out with a few team members for about an hour and passing out with my clothes on. This is what learning is all about. It's great to be a student again.

Sunday, June 21 - From Susan Allen of Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology in Baltimore County.

It is now the morning of the second day of Space Camp. I was supposed to blog last night after returning to the dorm and before going to sleep. I was absolutely unable to do that. Not only was a computer not available, but my brain was also not available.

Our first day started at 7:15 with a bus ride to the Rocket Center for breakfast. From that time until 9 p.m., we were busy with no downtime at all. After breakfast, we met our fellow team members. There are 18 of us on Team Inspiration. We come from several U.S. states (including Maryland, Texas and Florida) and several other countries (England, Romania, India and the Philippines). We range in age from the 20s to the 60s.

After breakfast, we did some team building and then went on a tour of the Davidson Center Museum. Let me tell you how excited everyone is, how connected we are already. We were going up a curved stairway when someone had the brilliant idea to have us line up along the railing and have our picture taken from the first floor. Everyone suddenly was putting their cameras on the floor near the designated photographer to have the picture on their own camera. Another team was passing by and they all helped to take our pictures so it did not take long for all of the cameras to be used and then it was our turn to take pictures of the other group lined up on the stairs. What a great group of people to just jump to help each other.

The museum was wonderful. We really could appreciate the size of the rockets that are needed to send a space capsule to the moon. When you see the rockets standing upright, you know that they are large. When they are lying on the side and you walk under them, you really know how enormous they are. We were given so much information; it was hard to digest all of it. I did take notes so I can refer to my notes later. Also, now I am hoping to have time to go to one of the gift shops so that I can buy a book or two. The information will mean so much more to me now that I have actually seen the rockets, etc. in person.

After the museum, we had lunch. Lunch is scheduled for 30 minutes. By the time we walked there, we had about 20 minutes before we had to leave to walk to our next activity.

We had our shuttle orientation, where we were introduced to many acronyms and saw a PowerPoint about shuttle missions. Then we were told about the positions that we could be assigned for our own mission and were asked to write down the positions that we would like to be assigned. Our counselors then assigned us our positions. There will be two missions that we will participate in. Everyone got their first choice for one of the missions. I was assigned my first choice for our first mission. I am the COMMANDER.

We then went to train for our mission. Astronauts train for several years. Teachers are so wonderful that we train for 90 minutes! (Today we will complete our mission.) As the commander I will have to prepare the spacecraft for liftoff and then land the craft. I got to practice the pre-takeoff procedures one and a half times and the landing about three times. I had much trouble landing the orbiter. We may crash upon landing today and they said that there are no do-overs for the "actual" mission.

After dinner, we worked on our team's mission patch. Our team came up with no final decision and we were told that we had to meet as a team back at the dorm. We need a patch design by Wednesday evening. As we were waiting around for our turns at the Astronaut Simulations, some of us discussed our patch and one lady had a wonderful idea. I sent our team members over to her and everyone who heard her idea thought it was good. Maybe we won't have to spend much time meeting.

Astronaut Simulations was absolutely great. The moon gravity walk was much fun. The machine that spins you around as though you were in a downspin was unbelievable. My husband was sure that I would not do that activity. He was wrong! It is indescribable. The simulations took a long time so we were late getting back to the dorm. I was totally exhausted.

Well, that was the first day at space camp. It is now 6:30 a.m.

Tuesday, June 23 - From City College math teacher Luis Lima.

I can't tell you how much fun this has been. Just to give you a short run, I played with toys in space, landed an egg on Mars, launched an engine rocket, helped air traffic control teach math, trained for a space shuttle mission to the International Space Station, walked on the moon, and spun around out of control.

My team, Team Destiny, is awesome! There are educators from all over the U.S., and Canada, the Philippines and, yours truly, Brazil. We had a full day of activities, beginning with the Toys in Space Workshop. Not only were there lots of neat ideas on how to use regular toys to represent laws of physics and gravity, but we also got to make our own. It's super interesting to watch Team Destiny work together to complete the assignments, document the whole experience and have fun.

After a quick break, we all went to Mars - or had a quick fly by some interesting activities and projects we can use. I learned a lot about Mars and again worked in a small group to design and build a spacecraft to safely land a chicken egg on the Red Planet. To land an egg traveling at about 250 mph whole was a lot of work. I believe all the eggs used during this project landed safely. It was not the landing of the eagle, but the next best thing.

Engine Rocket Launch followed our lunch break. Fifteen model rockets flew off into the summer skies of Alabama, where the weather is a lot like my hometown of Rio de Janeiro than I thought possible. My engine did not fly - lots of smoke but no take-off! I was told it happens. I was happy to see that the parachute assembly worked as designed, but the whole thing remained attached to the launching pad. It was a little frustrating until I remembered that at least the engine was not devoured by the rocket-eating trees around the launching field. I watched 15 successful launches. And I had a few ideas on how to use rockets in my math classes this fall.

Another workshop today was on how to use aeronautics to teach math ... airplanes and flights. It must have been my lucky day: how to use the math behind air travel and some cool Web sites to bring it all together. It was quite cool to me.

After dinner we went to the simulator to train for our second mission. I was assigned the role of mission control scientist. If all the anomalies work, I'll have a good time helping the astronauts on the space station overcome some difficulties and complete some experiments along the way. I hope theirs are as cool as the ones I did on the previous mission. The simulator, if you are not familiar with it, is a pretty sophisticated piece of equipment that allows us to experience a complete mission on the space shuttle from Earth to the International Space Station and back. Think about a 20-player LAN party with lots of action and multiple rooms connected by live audio and video. Pretty cool! There is nothing on game consoles that comes close to it yet. Two hours is not enough to explore it all. Our mission takes off tomorrow ... wish me luck! We may have problems landing on the runway.

It was way past 7 p.m. when we walked into the Astronaut Sim room. The Moon Walk was very cool and I wish I could have done it again. Bouncing around the surface of the moon like Neil Armstrong was very interesting. The best part was going for a spin on the chair. Awesome!

This has been a great experience and I am more than happy to be here. I'm learning a lot, having lots of fun, and meeting an awesome group of smart people who love to teach. I hope more teachers and students can take advantage of this program. Many thanks. Over and out.

Tuesday, June 23 - From Rachel Murphy, Hereford Middle School math teacher.

Wow, where do I start? I will try my best to fill you in on all the amazing things we have been doing while at Space Camp. First let me say that I did not realize that Honeywell employees actually pay with their own money for our scholarships, so thank you to those employees who provided me with this experience. So far, this has been the greatest professional development that I have ever participated in. Saturday when we arrived, there were no scheduled activities planned, but a bus was provided to go to a local "mall" (I would compare it to the avenues at White Marsh and Hunt Valley back home). It was very upscale, and beautiful, and included a canal with gondola rides. I ate dinner with five others from Maryland and two other teachers, one from Delaware and one from Tampa. It was fun getting to know the other teachers in a laid-back and social setting.

Sunday morning we were up and running early in the morning (7:30). I met my teammates - Team Destiny. I'm not sure what the other bloggers have been saying, but I have to say that we are the best team! There are 18 of us, six from Maryland. Other states and countries represented include England, Canada, Delaware, Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania and California. We bonded quickly through a few team-building activities. Throughout the day we took a tour of the museum, learned the ins and outs of how NASA builds and launches their shuttle missions, as well as more about the Honeywell Corp. My favorite part of the day was building a bottle rocket. I have never seen a 2-liter bottle of soda go that high before! We ended the "scheduled" activities around 8 p.m., but hung out with each other for a few more hours before we called it a night. They were not kidding when they said they send us home tired!

Monday, again we were up bright and early. We completed our first shuttle mission. I was an EVA on the International Space Station and got to build a tower "in space." That was awesome! Once I return, you will be able to see some pics and video of my mission. In addition to our first mission, we participated in another rocket-building event (they were launched today - super cool!), and listened to a presentation from Ed Buckbee, who was selected by rocket scientist Wernher von Braun to start the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Museum and started space camps. He had many fun and inside stories to tell about the "good old days" of NASA.

Tuesday morning, we were wakened by a great surprise: a fire alarm going off at 6:15! We all filed out of the dorms in our PJs - some were in the shower when it went off. Some of the activities we did today included making toys in space, and learning how to incorporate space and flight into middle school math. This was exciting to me, since this is what I teach! So my little lovelies - if you are reading this, you have something to look forward to when you return to school in the fall. I can't wait to use some of the ideas I learned.

The final activity we completed today was something I have been waiting to do since I applied to Space Camp, which were the mission apparatus. We got to "walk on the moon" and go in the MAT, which is that contraption you see people spinning around in all directions. It was so fun! Better than any roller coaster ride!

As I wrap up this blog, I have to say that on top of the overall experience of being here, I think it is just so refreshing to be in a professional setting where everyone wants to be here, learn how they can motivate their kids to be more interested in STEM subjects, and learn new ways to implement lessons in the classroom. Everyone is so willing to share their ideas. I am so grateful for this experience.


Thursday was the final day of the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program, which 33 middle school math and science teachers from the Baltimore area took part in in Huntsville, Ala. Here are the final reports from some of the teachers who have been blogging about their experiences this week.

Thursday, June 25 - From City College math teacher Luis Lima.

Thursday was the last day of Space Camp. For Team Destiny, it was an emotional roller coaster. We started with an update on the status of NASA's Ares program (the next manned mission to the moon). We were all very excited because after the update we were going to complete out mission on the Endeavour. Emotions were also running high because we knew we were hours away from saying goodbye to the amazing group of people who made up Team Destiny. But that is another story.

Mission Endeavour was a complete success. We had the most anomalies (things that can go wrong during any mission) thrown at us. At one point in time we were hit by a tornado and had to evacuate mission control while two of our crew members were space walking in order to repair the tiles on the orbiter. As I described in my previous blog, this is a very realistic environment and it was interesting to see how we all worked together to complete the mission and also have some fun. Today's simulation brought home to me a statement I heard during my five days here: that NASA trains the fear out of its astronauts. Not that we were in danger at any time. But the mission simulation is pretty realistic and I had insight.

I guess we were on the right path today, since we were visited by a star trooper. After the mission, we were on the war path to complete all of our other chores: creating memorabilia to share with the team and to present to our counselors. Leigh and Lindsey, the multi-talented pair of educators who were our camp leaders, made our experience even more memorable through their competent, effective and meaningful leadership. But I digress ...

So, this is after lunch and we are all in the auditorium to attend Story Musgrave's lecture. It was one of the most memorable presentations I have attended so far. Story's amazing life story is an inspiration. He is brilliant and funny and, at his age, is still going strong. You may be asking, Story, who? Story Musgrave is the astronaut who has flown six shuttle missions. He was also responsible for the design of the tools and repair procedures for the maintenance of the Hubble telescope. Check him out. He was more than accommodating with our picture requirements, he signed anything you could have asked him to, and was really nice to all of us. I am in awe of the brilliant simplicity and technical excellence of his design.

Our next adventure was to explore the Lunar Stations with a set of problem-solving activities related to living and working on the moon. There were lots of great and easy-to-use activities to help students cooperate in the solution of complex problems. Very cool.

Let me give you a quick tip. If you ever come here, take the time to go on the Space Shoot. Now, you want to face the Apollo 11 rocket.

As soon as Story left, we were able to finally have Leigh and Lindsey to settle down and the tears flowed ... it was preparation for graduation.

I was glad that Honeywell was represented, so we all had a chance to thank its employees for their generosity. None of us would have been at camp today otherwise. Another cool moment had to do with space camp for the visually impaired. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, this special camp provides visually impaired kids with the environment to have the same experiences we went through. It was amazing to see them succeed at the same anomalies we did in the morning.

As the program moved along, our team patches were officially unveiled and we were presented with our certificates and wings. Leigh and Lindsey went over the brag sheet, and Team Destiny was happy and proud to have succeeded together. Tears and cheers!

I am very glad I was selected to attend Space Camp. I hope I am able to do justice to all that I learned here when I attempt to translate these experiences and the enthusiasm for space exploration to my classes and my colleagues. I will be back for Advanced Camp in two years with my team. Team Destiny Rules! Roger and Out!

Thursday, June 25 - From Sabourah Abdunafi of ConneXions Community Leadership Academy in Baltimore.

It is amazing how fond you can grow of people in such a short period of time. I was grouped with 17 other people and two team leaders. On the first day, that team-building activity was priceless because we became more than a team - we became a family. We broke our necks to make sure that everyone was considered, on time, enjoying themselves and learning. It was so difficult trying to figure out what to say to each other on our last night. The one thing that we all could agree on was that we would work diligently with the things that we learned over the week, collect data for the next year and a half - and all apply for advanced space camp in two years. We have already put into place an action plan to assist our students and other students from our district in learning about math, science, engineering and technology (STEM) through space.

I expected to enjoy myself as I learned, but this experience was more than I could ever imagine. I continue to reflect on how I felt in the classroom during each lesson, activity and lecture to assist me in becoming more considerate of my students' learning styles.

Thursday, June 25 - From Amy Wood of the Maryland Science Center.

My final day of Honeywell Educators at Space Academy was the perfect ending to a weeklong camp that was enlightening, challenging and fun. In one week, I managed to build two rockets, and a lunar and Mars lander, be flight director at mission control, and perform an EVA to repair heat tiles on the side of the shuttle. My designs were not always successful, but sometimes failing is more fun!

My favorite moment happened while landing in the space shuttle. I was a mission specialist, sitting behind the pilot and commander. We were preparing for landing and all of a sudden every caution and warning light went off. After much screaming and panicking we all managed to pull ourselves together and fix everything.

I also met teachers from four countries and many different states. I learned that although we were all different, we all share a common goal of education and outreach. I also realized how complex and diverse NASA's work force truly is and that they share our goals of educating and outreach.

I will take this experience with me everywhere I go and always look back and smile.

Thursday, June 25 - From Rachel Murphy, math teacher at Hereford Middle School.

Hello again! Wow, what a week! If I had a few days to catch up on sleep, I would return in an instant! This was by far the greatest adventure I have ever experienced. The events for Wednesday and Thursday were just as exciting as the first half of the week. On Wednesday, my team (Destiny) was assigned the Engineering Design Challenge. Bruce was our instructor, he was amazing. He was so full of energy and knowledge and excitement for the concepts he was teaching, it was easy to forget that we were working on very few hours of sleep. Our challenge for the day was to design a heat shield to protect a brass screw that was hot glued to a wooden dowel rod, while a propane torch was blowing on the screw about 4 - 6 inches away. The object was to see how long your heat shield can keep the heat away from the screw and not remelt the hot glue. We were allowed to use one square of foil, one square of copper mesh, a brass washer, and two bolts made of zinc. At first, I did not understand why it was important for us to know the properties of the materials we were using, but my kind and smart team members helped me out. (Let me see if I can remember.... don't forget, I teach math, not science!) The foil was used to move the heat away from the screw. The copper mesh was use to collect the heat and keep it away from the screw as well. The bolts could also be used to move the heat away from the screw and hot glue. You will be able to see a video clip of our shield in a few days so hopefully you can picture it better then. Of course, my team had the longest time of 5 minutes (not that I am competitive at all :) )!

Walking away from the challenge, not only did I learn about the methods engineers take to solve a problem - design, build, test, observe and collect data, analyze results, then repeat until it is correct - but I loved to see Bruce's energy. I thought I had energy in the classroom, but Bruce just radiated a love for the subject and it made me want to learn more about the engineer design techniques. I will definitely keep Bruce in mind when I return to school next year. All of us have had boring teachers over the year, but we have also had wonderful teachers over the years who ooze a love for their subject. That is something I try everyday to give to my students. I want them to get excited for math and see how fun it is! I think this is part of what Honeywell is hoping for when we return to our classroom. They want us to plant the seed and get kids excited about studying math and science. We will need more of those kids to solve problems in our future, and to replace those who are soon retiring. I will be sure to think of Bruce on those days when I am tired and don't feel like "oozing energy" to my kids.

Next, we moved on to Martian Math – yeah! This was a great session too because we learned new ways to incorporate hands-on math in the classroom. We learned games such as "Alien Eyes," "Martian Numbers," and "Fuel Cell Pickup." I would be happy to share the games with anyone who asks. The games were great because we were able to change the rules depending on the age range of the kids.

Our third activity of the day, after lunch, was the Aviation Challenge. I had been looking forward to this day for a while. The activity took place at a man-made lake about 1/2 mile from the Space Center. We participated in 3 challenges, each simulated a different problem with a helicopter. One activity involved falling from a zipline about 2 stories in the air that simulated parachuting out of a helicopter. Another activity simulated crashing into the water and escaping out of if. The third activity simulated being saved from a helicopter dropping a basket into the water and lifting you out of it. After 4 days in 95 degree weather, an afternoon in the water was amazing!

Finally, after cleaning up from water fun, we returned to camp to celebrate. We had a wonderful dinner and a band! It was a long day, but everyone seemed to have a fun time!

After a few hours of sleep, we were up early to finish our last day of space camp. It was bittersweet because by this time we were all pretty tired and missed our families, but we were having so much fun together completing missions that we were sad to leave each other. After breakfast we attended a presentation on the Ares Rocket by Bob Armstrong, an engineer at NASA who also worked on the International Space Station. He showed an amazing video that demonstrated how the Ares 1 and 5 rockets work. Did you know that the current space shuttle has not landed on the moon? It was designed to orbit the Earth. There are only 8 more missions before the shuttle will be retired. After that the "old school" rocket design (similar to the Apollo) will return so that we can land on the moon again, and eventually on Mars!

We then went to complete our final mission simulation. My new assignment was CAPO at mission control. I was in charge of informing the public what was happening with the shuttle throughout the mission. We had several anomalies throughout the mission, including a disco ghost in the International Space Station (ISS), smurf invasion, narcolepsy and Storm trooper in the ISS, a fire in the orbiter, a spider bite and a tornado at mission control.

After lunch we attended another presentation, this time by Story Musgrave, an astronaut who went into space 6 times! He had amazing pictures that I am hoping to get copies of to share. It is amazing to see the views he and other astronauts see from space. From there we moved to our last session – lunar-nautics, which had great experiments and activities that incorporated space and scientific method into the classroom, again I will be happy to share.

My final dinner I had the pleasure of sitting next to Dan Hare of Honeywell who came to see what exactly we do at camp. It was a pleasure to thank a member of Honeywell in person for this wonderful experience. During our conversation I asked him if there was anything that "corporate America" wanted to see in their new hires, or what they are hoping to see in the new generation of math and science students. I really liked his answer. He said he just wants us to get our students excited about STEM subjects and plant the seed of them working in the industry when they get older. This was my favorite part – he said we won't pretend to be the experts in the classroom, that we teachers know what we are doing! How refreshing! Teachers, if there is one thing that you take away from these blogs, I hope you see how you can motivate your students just by showing up and "oozing energy" in your subject. Speaking with teachers from all over the nation and the world, I know that we all have our own difficulties within the classroom, whether it's lack of materials, money, or behavior problems. However, I also know that the more excited you are to teach your subject, the more your students will want to learn it, which is what we really want our students to do – learn!

One final thank you to Honeywell for sponsoring this trip/adventure! It was an amazing time and I hope that if you are interested in attending camp, you apply this year! I believe the application will be on Honeywell's website in October, and is due by the end of December. It was wonderful meeting other teachers who are passionate about their profession, learn how to get their students passionate about the subject as well, and just have an overall good time doing it!

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Comments
Loading