Boeing Space Camp Inspires Science Teachers

Three local teachers joined educators from around the world recently for a week of simulated harrowing space missions, underwater astronaut training and lectures by experts in rocketry and space exploration. The training was part of a 10-year reunion of Space Camp alumni who had attended the U.S. Space and Rocket Center's Advanced Space Academy for Educators in Huntsville, Ala. Among the 86 teachers from 21 states and six foreign countries were Long Beach teachers Chris Hogan and Trina Dye of International Elementary School, along with LBUSD Science & Math Resource Center lead teacher Tim Williamson. "It was incredible," said Williamson, who flew home with volumes of space-related lesson plans to help students meet new science standards. "And then Boeing offered, at its own expense, to fly us back to the camp again for follow-up training," he said. "A lot of companies say they support education, but Boeing really takes it a step further." During the camp, the teachers became the first educators ever to enter the micro-gravity simulator, a 25-foot deep tank of water containing a simulated lunar module. After a quick scuba lesson, the teachers descended into the tank to make repairs to the lunar craft. "On land, normally when you try to turn a bolt with a wrench, the bolt turns," Williamson said. "When you try turn it under water, your body turns. It's the same thing (in space) without gravity." The three Long Beach teachers also flew a simulated eight-hour Space Shuttle mission, complete with a rumbling launch, a realistic windshield view of the flight, and some "anomalies" thrown into the mix. During the flight, the teachers consulted Shuttle manuals to solve those problems. They also dealt with the simulated catastrophe of Mission Control being struck by a tornado. Graduation ceremonies were held at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 20, the 33rd anniversary of the first moon landing. The teachers met with a Shuttle astronaut and a college professor who had previously taught astronauts how to search for moon rocks. A behind-the-scenes, restricted-access tour took them to the Shuttle launching pad. "It's something that most people don't get to see," Williamson said. "It's located in the middle of a nature preserve filled with endangered species. There were prairie tortoises and four-foot long alligators in the canal swamps. We saw white egrets, herons and a bald eagle nest. Yet here we were surrounded by all this technology. It was just amazing. It proves that man and nature can get along and do wonderful things."