Sunday, April 7, 2013

Space Camp 2013

Each year, I take my 5th graders on a three day field trip to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama for Space Camp.  We have a great time every year, but this year was the best!  The program that we had been doing for years and years (Astrotrek) was no longer offered by Space Camp, so we had to sign up for the Pathfinder program.  It was so much better and I'm glad we were forced to switch!  We were able to participate in more activities, try out more simulators, and construct better rockets.  It was an amazing experience.
Last Wednesday, the day we left, we all met the charter bus at 5:45 a.m., loaded up, prayed together, and then began our 8 hour trip to Huntsville.  My teaching partner and I took 32 kids and 9 other adult chaperones on the trip.
 The two 5th grade teachers at 6 a.m.:
Our first rest area stop was at the FL/AL state line where we had to get a picture with the giant peanut.  This stop was near the "Peanut Capital of the World."
We arrived at Space Camp around 1 p.m. CST and checked in.
We quickly unpacked in our dorms.  This year, we stayed in Habitat 1. 
Once we were settled in, we had Orientation: 
Our 5th graders were divided up into three groups--Armstrong, Aldrin, and Bean.  I was on Team Armstrong and our leader was a young woman named LiErin, whose codename was "Pancake."  It was a little odd calling her by her codename, but I finally got used to it.  The kids loved it!  Pancake turned out to be the best team leader I've ever been put with (and this was my 5th year at Space Camp).  She was knowledgeable, energetic, had great volume and expression as she taught, and seemed to enjoy being around us.     

With the Pathfinder program, the students simulate a space mission and are graded on it.  Each person is assigned a specific role and on the last day of camp, during the graduation ceremony, the group with the "most successful mission" is awarded.  Okay, I have to go ahead and brag a little bit.  My group, Team Armstrong, had the most successful mission out of more than 15 other teams at Space Camp.  We each received a Shuttle pin and I was so proud of my group! 

Anyway, on the first day, we prepped for our mission; I was assigned to be on the International Space Station with three kiddos while my other team members were either in Mission Control, on the Discovery shuttle, or doing an EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity--basically, working in space outside of the spacecraft).  We completed the mission the second day of camp.  My team performed experiments on the ISS.  Here are some shots:
And the EVA's:
We rode a few simulators on the first day, learned about the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, and constructed rockets.
 Me, inside a model of the Mercury capsule:
Pancake asked my students a lot of questions and I was so proud of the way they answered.  They were well-prepared for Space Camp and one of my students even came up to me and thanked me for teaching them well before they came to camp!  Aww!  At one point, Pancake said, "Wow!  You guys don't even need already know all of this!"  We were still interested in all she had to present.  She made learning so much fun!  She told stories about the different missions and my students soaked up everything.  They were a perfect group.  Not once did I (or Pancake) have to tell them to quiet down, stop talking, stop misbehaving, etc.  Their behavior was exemplary.  I was so impressed! 

For the last activity of the day, the students created a mission patch to represent their group, Team Armstrong. 
They didn't win the contest on graduation day for the best mission patch, but were still proud of their work.

We didn't get back to the dorms until 9:30 p.m. and lights were out at 10 p.m.  Before bed, I led my students in a devotion/prayer time and they shared their favorite part of the day.  We had to wake up early at 7 a.m. to start Day 2.

Our second day of camp was packed full of activities!  We went from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and walked about 7 miles total!  We launched our rockets and rode simulators--including the 1/6th chair (which simulates what it feels like to walk on the moon) and the MAT (Multi-Axis Trainer, which simulates the disorientation one would feel in a tumble spin upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere).  We went to the gift shop, learned more about the American space programs, visited the museum and participated in a scavenger hunt, watched an IMAX movie, climbed the rock wall, rode the Mars Mission simulator, and toured the black holes exhibit, among other things that I can't recall.  Whew!
On the last day of camp, we woke up and were able to have a group devotion time with all 32 kids and 11 adults.  I led the devotion, which was originally from another teacher I used to work with (Jeanne Thon, if you're reading this, I'm referring to you!).  I passed out a rock to each person and read from Joshua 4:1-8, which talks about the memorial stones collected from the Jordan River by the Israelites.  I told everyone that what they had in front of them were Space Camp memorial stones.  We went around the room and each person shared how they saw God on this trip.  Some people shared how they saw God answer a prayer; some shared what they were thankful for; some shared a personal story.  We had a wonderful time of reflection and ended with prayer.  My current teaching partner wrote everyone's responses down and we plan to type them up, print them out, and place them in the 5th graders' time capsules (along with the stones, of course).  I'll share more about the time capsules later.

We went on with our day--participating in Space Bowl, completing a few more activities, and finally graduating.  Space Bowl was similar to Jeopardy and our other group, Team Bean, won!!  After graduation, we presented Pancake with an Apollo 8 mission pin and I got to pin her.  She was a fantastic team leader and we were sad to say goodbye.  I think a few of my students even asked for her autograph!  I told you they loved her!  After graduation, we got to ride Space Shot, which allowed us to experience freefall.  I love that ride!  We finished our day with Space Dots ice cream and my team surprised me by pinning me with an Apollo 8 mission pin!  I was so surprised and they said some really sweet things to me. 
We hopped on the bus and arrived home safely after a very long 8 hour drive ( was long...and three of us got sick on the bus!).  However, we had a blast at Space Camp!  I'll leave you with a few more pictures. 
I'm ready to start planning for next year's trip!  If any teacher out there is interested in taking their students to Space Camp, I'd be glad to talk with you.  I've been several years, have stayed in all the Habitats, and experienced both good and bad.  I'd love to share my experiences and help anyone get started in planning an incredible trip for their students.   

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your comment! I'd love to know how you are able to take a field trip there!! It seems so expensive!