Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Space Camp 2015

A few days ago, my 5th grade students and I embarked on our annual adventure to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.  You can read about last year's experience HERE and the year before that HERE.  This year marked my 7th field trip to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and, as usual, I had the time of my life.  I never tire of this trip!  It does require a tremendous amount of planning, but the fun we have makes it all worthwhile. 
We all met Wednesday morning at 5:45 EST and left on our chartered bus by 6:00 a.m.  We arrived at Space Camp around 1:15 p.m. CST and began the check in process.  After being assigned to our dorms, we had orientation. 
While at orientation, all the school groups at Space Camp gathered in one large room and, to my surprise, I noticed a familiar face from another school group.  My best friend from high school was standing a few feet away from me!  I ran up to her--we both squealed in excitement and hugged since we hadn't seen each other in over 10 years!  We now live states apart; she just happened to be at Space Camp as a chaperone for her son's field trip.  What a small world!
After Orientation, we were sorted into groups.  My team's name was Team Carpenter (after Mercury astronaut, Scott Carpenter), and our camp counselor was Ms. Victoria:
We created a team chant, which I later learned was essentially from Bob the Builder.  I've never watched Bob the Builder, so I had no clue about the connection.  I just thought that the chaperone who suggested the chant was quick-witted and creative!  Whenever Victoria said, "Team Carpenter," we yelled, "CAN WE BUILD IT?"  Followed by, "YES, WE CAN!"  This was fun to say, especially when it came time to build our rockets.  ;) 

We did so much on Day 1 and were exhausted by bed time.  Seriously, the kids were begging for bed time!  To sum up, my team explored the Rocket Park, rode the G-Force simulator, competed in a Museum Hunt, created a mission patch, ate dinner, constructed rockets, and learned about the Mercury, Gemini, and Shuttle programs.
Moon rock from the Apollo 12 mission.
We also ran in to Karl with a K!  To understand the significance of this encounter, read last year's post.
Day 2 started with breakfast at 8:30 a.m., but most of my students were up by 7:00 a.m. (some even earlier!?).  I was a little surprised because students in the past have been dragging on the second morning due to the exhaustion from Day 1.  These kids were energized and ready to hit the ground running!

On Day 2, we had beautiful weather, which was a huge blessing because there had been a 70% chance of rain forecasted.  The day's activities included training for our mission, riding the MAT (Multi-Axis Trainer) Simulator, visiting Miss Baker's grave, going to the gift shop, exploring the Davidson Museum...and stumbling upon a special surprise while in the museum...
When we entered the museum, I noticed several gentlemen in white coats walking around and talking to various guests.  While my group was looking at a display near the moon rock, one of the men came up to us and began talking about some of the items on display.  We found out that the men in white coats were retired NASA workers who now serve as docents for the Davidson Museum.  We were standing in the presence of Craig Sumner, who had worked on the Lunar Roving Vehicle as a NASA test subject and trained the Apollo astronauts to drive said Moon Buggy! 
His photo from the 1970's:
We really enjoyed listening to his stories:
We also met Ron Brock.  He had worked with Wernher von Braun and told us fun stories as well.  I loved hearing his impressions of von Braun!  He mimicked the German accent perfectly and told us about his interactions with the famous rocket scientist.  I was thrilled to have this experience; I felt like I'd met celebrities....of course, I'm a big space nerd! 
After the high of this encounter, we went to the area where we would complete our mission.  Some students were assigned to the International Space Station where they worked on science experiments.  Other students were assigned to the space shuttle orbiter where they were "launched into space."  The adults were assigned to Mission Control.  We all had different roles, and the simulated mission felt very real.  Once it was over, I felt we had done incredibly well.  We had very few mistakes, and the kids took their roles seriously and acted professionally.  I felt confident that we could win "Best Mission."  At one point during the mission, however, as we were landing the shuttle, I noticed that our payload bay doors had been left open.  I was sooo disappointed!  Thankfully, there was just a glitch in the computer/visual, and this "mistake" did not count against us.  Whew!  I jokingly told one chaperone, "If we don't win Best Mission, I'm gonna demand a recount and request to see the score sheet!"  Yes, they grade each group's mission, and we competed against 10 other groups at Space Camp.
 We were able to see the crew in the ISS and the orbiter:
I was the Flight Director.  The crew could blame me if our mission wasn't successful!  I told them, "Failure is NOT an option!"  ;)
In addition to our mission, my group also rode Space Shot, launched our rockets, rode the 5DF chair simulator, watched a few videos and listened to presentations about what NASA is currently doing, and played Space Bowl on Day 2. 
After saying our team chant over and over on Day 2, these silly girls made up an extended version:
The last comment is cut off at the end: "Oh, why bother?  We don't even need it!"  ;)

Day 3 started with a group devotion.  I led it, and our scripture focus was Joshua 4:1-8.  Just like in previous years, I gave each person a "Space Camp Memorial Stone," and they shared how God blessed them on this trip.  We had spent months praying about this field trip in the classroom, so all of the students were able to see how God answered specific prayers that had been lifted up.  After our devotion and prayer time, we ate breakfast, rode the Mars Mission simulator, climbed the Mars Rock Wall, graduated, and enjoyed Space Dots (ice cream) before boarding the bus and heading home. 
At graduation, awards were handed out.  Guess what?!  Team Carpenter won "Best Mission!"  That's three years in a row that my team has won this award!  I was so proud!  My principal came on this trip as well, and her team (the other half of my class--Team Cernan) won the highest score in Space Bowl!  This was her second year to win Space Bowl!  We were thrilled!
As you can tell, I love this trip.  Space Camp allows us to experience new things, learn more about space history/travel, see space memorabilia, and bond with each other.  This field trip has given me wonderful memories over the years that I will treasure forever.

I'll leave you with one last video: Karl with a K, my team's counselor from last year, met up with us right before we left, and treated us to a song he wrote to the tune of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"  It's titled, "Do You Want to Build a Rocket?"

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