“Going up in the air, doing the zip-line down three stories on a rope and into water scared me a little. I didn’t think I could do any of those physical activities,” said Margaret Calverley, talking about her weeklong adventure at Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy, commonly known as Space Camp, in Huntsville, Ala. “After I got there, I did almost all of them with no problem. I didn’t do the spinning chair because I didn’t want to feel nauseous the rest of the day. But I did the moon walk in a harness and other things I didn’t think I could do.”
Calverley was one of three Bayonne teachers who were among 185 teachers from 19 countries and 37 states to attend its simulated astronaut training and professional development program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.
“There was one other teacher from Bayonne with me during my week there,” Calverley said.
Angela Fearon from Lincoln Community School attended the camp the same week as Calverley did.
A special education teacher for about 15 years, Calverley currently serves as a computer technology teacher for grades kindergarten through eight, and her switch to technology came at a fortunate time, as the space camp expanded its program to include technology teachers.
“Before that, the program was only open to math and science teachers,” she said. The program was designed to introduce teachers to new interactive ways of teaching those subjects.
Overall, the program included 45 hours of professional development, as well as an intensive educator curriculum focused on space science and exploration. Each teacher also underwent simulated astronaut training including: a high-performance jet simulation, scenario-based space mission, land and water survival training, and an interactive flight dynamics programs.
Created in partnership with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in 2004, the program is designed to address problematic trends in science, technology, engineering, and math that show students struggling to deal with even the most basic concepts of math and science by providing teachers with new technical skills and teaching techniques that help motivate students not only in the U.S. but around the world. Since the program’s inception, Honeywell and its employees have sponsored more than 1,650 teachers from 44 countries and all 50 U.S. states to participate in the program.
“Inspiring students begins with inspiring teachers,” said Tom Buckmaster, President of Honeywell Hometown Solutions. “As a leading technology company, Honeywell is committed to promoting science and math education and encouraging the next generation of technologists and engineers. Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy helps teachers move beyond the standard math and science curriculum and approach their lessons in new and innovative ways.”
Each Honeywell Educator receives a full scholarship following a rigorous and lengthy application and selection process involving competing teachers from around the world. Scholarships include tuition for the six-day program, roundtrip airfare, meals, accommodations, and program materials, all sponsored by Honeywell and contributions from Honeywell employees.
“I heard about the program from a teacher friend of mind who attended the academy two years ago,” Calverley said. “She said she had brought back information that helped her with technology.”
The man in the blue space suit
Calverley left for the academy on June 22, a week after schools closed in Bayonne.
“We were greeted at the airport by a man wearing a blue space suit,” she said. “We looked at him; he looked at us. Then we got our luggage and got on the bus.”
The make up of the group surprised her.
“There were people arriving from everywhere in the world,” she said. “We stayed in the dormitories at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.”
She recalled being impressed by her first glimpse of the academy, but that it was only the tip of the iceberg.
“I remember as we drove I saw a rocket ship on the side of the road pointing out from between the trees,” she said. “But that wasn’t anything. That glimpse was so minimal to what we saw the rest of the week.”
Although they arrived on a Friday, the real grind didn’t start until the next day. From Saturday to Wednesday, she was up at 7 a.m. and returned as late as 8 or 9 p.m. involved in a host of activities from classroom lessons to space missions.
“On Friday we settled in,” Calverley said. “We began on Saturday. A bus picked us up and drove us all to the education center.”
Calverley worked as part of a team on a shuttle mission and was part of the communication network for a moon mission.
That week’s camp included a total of 86 people which were divided into smaller units.
“We were broken up into teams. “Our group had 14 people. Seven of us were from the United States, the other seven came from other countries,” she said.
Each team member wore a badge with their team name on it.
“Our team name was ‘Destiny,’” she said. “We all had jobs.”
In the simulated moon landing, Calverley’s job was to relay messages from Mission Control to the space orbiter.
“They called me ‘the talker,’ and I relayed directions,” she said. “When I got back home, people told me that’s what I do. But I’m really not like that.”
On the shuttle mission, she was a mission specialist, and this required her to perform a simulated space walk.
“This means we had to go outside, through the doors and replace damaged panels on the side of the shuffle while dangling from a harness,” she said. “We had to measure the area and then replace the panel. It was pretty cool.”
“There was a teacher who attended the space academy who eventually went on to become an astronaut.” – Margaret Calverley
“One of the biggest things I got out of all this was just how many astronauts there are in the world,” she said. “We learned a lot about space history and the space program and about all the people involved. When I thought about astronauts before this, the first thing I thought about was The Challenger tragedy and the seven astronauts who were lost. I didn’t realize that there were so many others, and that the space program was made up of many different people and many people who had gone through space training have gone on to do other things.”
Some of those people in the NASA astronaut program are even in the New Jersey Hall of Fame, one of those facts Calverley learned during a visit to the museum at space camp.
“There was a teacher who attended the space academy who eventually went on to become an astronaut,” she said.
One lesson she intends to bring back to her classroom in Bayonne will be how to involve her students more and to educate kids about the astronauts.
“Maybe this might influence them into seeking careers that are related,” she said, “such as study of astronomy or to become a pilot.”
Another lesson she is bringing back involves working as a team and the concept of leadership.
“I want my kids to be more involved in activities.”
While math and science will be incorporated into her lessons in some way, as a technology teacher, Calverley said these will likely come out as how to do research and how to develop goals. But the camp left a lasting impression on her as well.
“I took away a lot from that week,” she said. “I could do much more than I thought I could do.”