Three Scottsdale area science teachers are preparing for lift-off this weekend, after being selected to join teachers from around the world at a national space academy program.
Though they will not actually be blasted into orbit, the middle school teachers will spend a week at a space exploration and astronaut training program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. It’s all part of the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy.
Bobby Jones of Sunrise Middle School and Bill Gardner of Supai Middle School, both in Scottsdale, and Scottsdale resident Carol Jessen of Phoenix’s Arrowhead Elementary will be among the 265 science and math teachers attending one of the two weeklong sessions that start Monday .
The program seeks to provide middle school teachers with exciting science experiences and materials for their classrooms in an effort to inspire students to pursue careers in the field.
Gardner, a 20-year teaching veteran, said he hopes to return from Alabama with new ideas to make his seventh-grade science students excited about manned space flight, a core of his curriculum at Supai.
“The program will allow me to come close to bringing the real thing into the classroom — what manned space flight is about, what an astronaut goes through,” Gardner said. “This will allow me to do a little more first-person teaching.”
Jones, an eighth-grade science teacher and department chairman at Sunrise, said he is most looking forward to experiencing zero gravity in one of the astronaut training exercises.
“I think everyone’s always wanted to be weightless,” he said.
He said he expects his space academy experience to enhance not only his own classroom, but also the entire Sunrise science program.
As department chairman, he said he will bring back his new knowledge of the earth sciences and integrate it into the seventh-grade classes, while using the rocketry curriculum in his own.
Jessen, who teaches gifted students at Arrowhead, is no stranger to unique space education experiences. In February, she and a colleague tested an experiment created by her students at 34,000 feet aboard a NASA aircraft.
The Honeywell program focuses on middle school educators in an effort to reach students during the years they need to be discovering a love of science, according to Don Wilt, Honeywell Aerospace director of public affairs.
“We’re sending the teachers to Huntsville to learn how to teach science and math in a way that will inspire their students, and mobilize to go into those fields,” Wilt said.
Including this year’s space academy class, the Honeywell program will have graduated more than 700 teachers, all with full scholarships, since it began in 2004.