West Central Valley’s Todd Boender experienced something he never thought was possible: attend space camp.
Boender, who has taught middle school science at West Central Valley for 10 years, applied for the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program in October of last year and was surprised to find out he was one of 210 teachers chosen to attend this June.
“I’m good at math and science, but not so good at writing so I wasn’t expecting to get chosen,” he said. “We had to write a few essay questions on how this experience would help our students in the classroom. It was a really good experience for teachers who want to learn but don’t have a whole lot of money to spend on science-related activities.”
Teachers took part in a variety of activities including 45 hours of professional development, educator curriculum focused on space science and exploration, high-performance jet simulation, scenario-based space mission, land and water survival training and interactive flight dynamics programs. They also experienced spinning upside-down in a multi-axis simulator and what no gravity was like in the gravity chair.
“Those activities were really neat,” he said. “My family and I are huge theme-park junkies so I was used to the spinning (on the multi-axis simulator). The gravity chair was a lot more difficult.”
At the five-day academy at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., Boender said he learned that teachers around the country deal with many of the same issues he does in his school district.
“Talking with other teachers from around the country and world made me realize that they deal with the same things that I deal with,” he said. “Low tests scores and motivating kids are a few issues that go on at every school. We just want to see kids doing the best they can.”
On average, Boender works with 140 kids per school year and is enthusiastic about the start of this year after attending the space academy.
“I enjoy my kids, especially at the middle school level, because it’s never the same day twice,” he said. “I’m always looking for free things to do in my classroom, especially things that are hands-on. I’m really going to push for other science and math teachers to apply for this program because it was a great experience.”
Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy created a partnership with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in 2004 to help provide teachers with new technical skills as well as teaching techniques to motivate students.
More than 1,755 teachers have attended the program since its inception.