Tuesday, August 5, 2014

International Space Camp, Part 1: Mission (Temporarily) Impossible, Parade of States, Shuttle Mission, and du Midi Reception

I'm speed writing.

This time, next week, a new school year begins for teachers. Well, actually it's Wednesday, but close enough. I have my first week where I'm not flying/driving/speaking/etc. since...??? I was somewhere every week in July. And now it's August. I spent the weekend getting my classroom to 95% completion so I could have a week to clean house, cook real food, and write - and prepare for whatever the next year brings.

First, I've need to recap Space Camp. It comes at just the right time of the year when we, as state teachers of the year, need to recharge and connect with one another. I don't like cliches, but "it takes one to know one" applies to this year wholeheartedly. We get each other and the discord, decisions, and travel dramas (more on that in a minute) that have ensued since we first met each other in January. If we didn't have the opportunities to connect with one another, this year would be a lot more isolating that it already is most of the time. So International Space Camp (although the state teachers of the year attend, there were several teachers from other countries that joined our group as well) was not only a chance to learn and bring back experiences to our school, but to support one another as our lives take on the next chapter.

Let's get back to the travel drama. I have been fortunate in that many of the events held this year have been in D.C. and therefore within driving/train distance. This was the first time I had to fly out for an event since January. Several of us were on the same connecting flight from Charlotte into Huntsville, less than an hour away by air.

Then we got the news that our flight was not only cancelled, but we were no other options to fly out that day. Not what anyone wanted to hear, as we scanned Facebook for posts of already arriving teachers touring the Space Camp grounds and being sized for their flight suits. Fortunately we were given hotel rooms for night and a chance to fly out the next afternoon. After a short delay the next day, we were on our way to Alabama.
Our luggage was already in Huntsville (supposedly), so Berkeley had to rough it
with some travel goodies from US Air (and whatever toiletries I had in my
Finally on a plane...


MD, SC, NC, and WV on the bus to the dorms

Although we did miss the orientation day activities, we arrived just in time to change for the parade of states/nations. Every teacher participating was asked to bring a costume and create a short presentation to introduce their states and countries to the other participants. At first it seemed a little silly, but it was fun to see everyone dressed up and learn about each other's state - and it made for some great pictures. Can you guess what each state represents?
South Dakota, North Carolina, and Kentucky

Arizona, Utah, California, and New Mexico

Florida, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Kentucky, and Virginia

Mountain Homesteader with the WV flag :-)

Group shot with Pathfinder

We also had a special introduction by Don Thomas, a former NASA astronaut. He gave an inspiring speech about his journey into the space program and how, although it took four times, he never gave up hoping to be accepted into the space shuttle program.

The following day we had some introductory activities and were able to meet with our teams for the week. The first activity for my team, Destiny, was to prepare for our space shuttle simulation. There is a building at Space Camp that houses a simulator of a space shuttle, International Space Station Module, lunar orbiter, and two mission controls. There are built to look and "feel" similar to the actual NASA structures, so it's very exciting and FUN (and there's nothing wrong with fun - if teachers don't experience joy, how do you expect the students to?) to take on any role. I was in mission control as a EECOM (monitors weather and air pressure for missions).
International Space Station Module

Monitors in Mission Control

My work station :-)

You have a script to refer to, since we're amateurs :-) 

Mission in Progress (until the buttons on the screen light up red...)
with the Texas TOY Monica Washington and American Samoa TOY Claire Bacus

We then returned back to our dorms at the University of Alabama at Huntsville to get dressed for the evening reception at Saturn IV Hall, located at the Davidson Center. The original Saturn IV rocket is suspended from the ceiling. This reception was sponsored by the du Midi Women's Club of Huntsville. Many of the husbands of the women that are part of this organization were engineers for the Saturn IV and were there in attendance. This reception was also special in that it commemorated the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.
My view under Saturn IV

Cute centerpiece created by one of the du Midi ladies

With Dr. Paul Allison, one of the engineers on Saturn IV,
and his wife Janice

With Janice Allison, NASA management analyst Bennie Jacks, Utah
TOY Allison Riddle, and Princeton, WV native Linda Drake

With Linda beside the Lunar Module

Under (part of) Saturn IV

Although getting there was a little stressful, once we arrive it was very obvious this was going to be a special week. I was a Honeywell Educator and attended a Space Camp program in 2011, but having the opportunity to learn and connect with this group of teacher that has been together all year in this incredible place signaled it would be yet another remarkable experience for this year.

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