Seneca Ridge Middle School students will have a tough time competing with sixth-grade teacher Emily Cripps’s summer vacation plans.
"It was pretty crazy," she said.
Cripps attended The Boeing Company’s 15th Annual Boeing Educators’ Space Camp Program, a one-week program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. From July 10 through July 16, she participated in rocket-building exercises, met with NASA employees and astronauts, and studied the cost and construction of hot air balloons.
"I learned so much and have a lot of stuff to bring back to the classroom," Cripps said.
THE BOEING Company sent 89 public-school teachers from 10 states and seven countries, including India, Italy and Japan, to Alabama to talk to NASA experts and hear astronauts describe their recent explorations and future project plans. Eight of those teachers were from the Washington, D.C.-metropolitan area. Cripps and Waterford Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Kristen Rhoads, 25, represented Loudoun County.
President George W. Bush recently announced his Vision for Space Exploration and the American Competitive Advantage Initiative, to equip young Americans with an educational foundation for future studies in technology. Boeing spokesperson Dale Rainville said the aerospace company tries to support the initiative through this program.
"I went to get new activities for my students and get inspired," Cripps said.
THE SIXTH-GRADE teacher applied to the Space Camp Program to learn new ways to encourage students to explore careers in math and science.
"Kids these days are pulling away from math and science," the 29-year-old said. "We need to get them involved in math and science projects and get them excited about it."
Rainville said the program uses space exploration initiatives to enhance teacher’s skills in presenting math, science and technology lessons that might inspire students and help ensure a skilled workforce for a globally competitive technology market.
"In the next 10 or 15 years, NASA wants to go back to the moon and Mars," Cripps said. "My students could be the ones doing that."
So, Cripps and other school teachers participated in simulated space missions, learned about weightlessness in space and listened to lectures from rocketry and space exploration experts. In addition to that, the Space Camp Program offers public-school teachers, grades four through eight, project ideas and workshops designed by grade level.
"I was excited to be in a learner role," Cripps said.
CRIPPS GRADUATED from Space Camp July 16 in her bright blue flight suit.
Each teacher returned to their homes with a workbook to create lesson plans and additional program materials to learn in the classroom, said Boeing's communications manager Jennifer Catton.
In one of Cripps favorite workshops, she learned how to budget for and construct a four-foot hot air balloon. She plans on taking this lesson back to her Sterling classroom in September, but said it will take a couple years to work all of the kinks out.
"The students will learn the science of the balloon, while learning a life skill at the same time," Cripps said. "I’m excited to bring the things I’ve learned back to the classroom."