After spending five days at the Space Academy for Educators, Joliet 4th grade teacher, Ann Conover not only experienced and learned what training may be like for astronauts on a space mission, but also left her with a mission of her own, to motivate students about the importance of science and math and its many applications. “I think every kid wonders about space and at one point wants to be an astronaut. I think its important to let kids know the opportunities that will be in their future,” Conover explained. Emphasizing team building and utilizing science and math skills to complete projects, the academy brought teachers from all over the world to participate in workshops, learn about space and apply new teaching techniques and concepts in the classroom.
Sponsored by Honeywell, Conover and her team of 14 other educators, called “Team Tranquility,” had the opportunity to do a variety of space-related activities. Such included were: building parachutes that could land on Mars Rover, extracting DNA from strawberries, building rockets, spinning in a multi-axis trainer, which pilots use as crash simulations, and purifying murky water to make it drinkable, just to name a few. With a new inspiration for space and science, Conover has set up her classroom as a space lab, similar to the space station, where students can learn as a group and participate in experiments. “I’m planning on wearing my space jump suit to class and setting ourselves up as a team. With my classes, I emphasize the need to work together, to ask questions and be willing to investigate,” Conover said.
The Academy, located in Huntsville, Alabama supplied educators from 41 states and 27 countries with lesson plans and the tools needed to adapt the activities in a classroom setting. “There were quite a few activities that I am hoping to try or at least apply the concepts in the class,” Conover stated. After working as a team with other educators and learning new concepts, Conover is grateful for the opportunity and encourages any educators involved in math and science to apply for the academy. “The best part was making connections with educators, and having the opportunity to share ideas. The whole experience was like a shot in the arm, “It really got me pumped up about science.
Sadly, the western states were not well represented. I was the only one from Montana,” Conover said. Conover applied for the academy in the fall as a way to refresh her knowledge about space and attended the June session. The Space Academy also offers a variety of programs for families and students alike.