Dream Bigger, Aim Higher.
When Dr. Nicole Ackerson, a sixth-grade science teacher and science department chair at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, Florida, attended a Space Camp for Educators week at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, she immediately saw the potential for a stellar student trip.
“The experience was a lot of fun and I was able to ask a lot of questions about how the trip might go for our students,” said Ackerson, who now takes approximately 55 sixth-grade students and nine chaperones to Space Camp’s three-day sleepaway Pathfinder program each year.
For some students, Space Camp is their first time away from home—but they’re usually having too much fun to think about being homesick.
“The events are well planned and there’s rarely a moment where the kids are not engaged that the time just flies by,” said Ackerson. “Space exploration and technology is an organic merger of history, science, mathematics, art, and the human condition. It’s one of the reasons that STEM and STEAM programs are now so popular and helpful to students.”
Ackerson adds that the trip also allows educators to develop bonds with students that would otherwise take weeks to create at school, if at all.
“I’ll remember my interactions with my students, eating meals with them in the galley and having them all tell me about the rockets they built, or the smile on a boy’s face as he overcame his fear and tried the multi-axis trainer,” said Ackerson. “The kids remember the trip fondly for years.”
A true believer that her students are equipped to learn to be better team members through the various activities offered at Space Camp, Ackerson notes students are also able to learn through history just how far the human mind can reach when it’s allowed.
“I hope through the presentations of future exploration, my students go to bed each night dreaming about how they could invent, explore and create the next big advance in space or technology,” said Ackerson. “Through the bonds they build with me, their teachers and their new friends, they dare to be a little braver the next day.”
The teachers chaperoning the trip, even if for only those three days, are much like their wondrous students. Ackerson always hopes they bring that rekindled enthusiasm back to the classroom.
“Space camp is a trip that is truly applicable to every middle school discipline.
“It’s an experience, that, if you let it, will inspire you and your students to dream a little bigger.”
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Teach & Travel.
This article originally appeared in Teach & Travel.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Space and Rocket Center.