• iceberg
  • boy with flowers
  • checking water quality
  • planet eclipse
  • solarsystem model
  • rangitoto trees
  • kids with test tubes
  • kids with earth
  • snowy mountains
  • teens in physics class
  • Rainbow Clouds

    Refraction and diffraction of light through ice crystals in the clouds

  • Philippa On The Ice

    Philippa On The Ice Philippa Werry at an Antarctic research camp 2016

New Zealand Science Teacher

Science Curriculum/Scientific Literacy

Students reach for the stars with Space Camps

DAVID PATERSON describes how visiting Space Camp in Alabama weaves in with the New Zealand Curriculum and has broadened his students’ horizons.

Above: Students are placed into teams at Space Camp which include other students from around the world. Each team is named after a rocket scientist who worked on US rockets in Huntsville, Alabama. Oscar Holderer worked on the Apollo programme and designed simulators for the Space Camp.

Cashmere High School science students head to Alabama Space Camp

This year was the fifth time Cashmere High School has visited Space Camp, Alabama since 2006, making a total of 93 students who have experienced this amazing trip.

The immediate aims of the trip are:

-          To take a group of Cashmere High School students from Years 11–13 to America to undertake basic astronaut training and learn about the NASA Space programmes.

-          To grow confidence, develop leadership skills in our students, and for them to realise the importance of working as a team, both in science and in society.

-          To expose science teaching staff to the US Space programme, a genuine ‘Nature of Science’ experience which they can use to inspire students in their classrooms.

Not just ‘hands-on’, but ‘minds-on’

However, the trip is part of the broader aim of science at Cashmere High School, which is to make science “fascinating and fun”, for both students and staff. We want to create an environment where students are engaged through both the enjoyment of “hands-on” practical lessons and by connecting to their own lives through “minds-on” activities, applying and thinking about their learning. This has required writing schemes of work that endeavour to deliver content through the nature of science (NOS) perspective, as described in the curriculum, and ties in with the overall vision of the curriculum.

As Karen Sewell, Secretary for Education, stated in the forward to the New Zealand Curriculum:

“It [the curriculum] takes as its starting point a vision of our young people as lifelong learners who are confident and creative, connected, and actively involved.”

Positive science messages at school

The Space Camp trip embodies all of these points, and although only a few students go on each trip, others can see the vision of the curriculum acted out. Teachers and students come back with stories full of the excitement of science and the space programme, plus a huge poster of each trip is put up in the labs, keeping positive messages about science in front of all students.

Astronaut training: team work and long hours

Left: Student Josh Croft ‘walking on the moon’.

The week at the actual Space Camp in Alabama is a full-on programme where the students are woken at 7am each day and put through astronaut training until 10 o’clock at night. They train on shuttle simulators, attend lectures on space exploration and shuttle systems, build and launch their own two-stage rockets, experience working in space by scuba diving, and carry out a simulated mission as pilots or mission specialists to repair a satellite in space. A key aim of the Camp itself is to emphasise team-work and to realise that no one gets to the moon without a huge team of scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and more, to support them.

We then take the students to Florida for the second part of the trip, the main purpose of which is to visit the Kennedy Space Centre and see where the rockets are actually launched. We have a whole day tour around the launch facilities, seeing parts of the International Space Station being assembled, a huge Saturn V rocket, and going on the Shuttle launch simulator.

One highlight is ‘lunch with an astronaut’, during which we hear first-hand what it is like to live and work in space. Other opportunities are taken as they arise. For example, in 2010, we were able to witness the night launch of the shuttle Discovery. Not only was this an incredible sensory experience where you could see and feel the power required to launch a rocket, but the students could see that this was important to the lives of the thousands of Americans who came to watch before dawn on a Florida morning.

Trips as an ‘extension’ activity only

I would encourage any science department to consider organising their own Space Camp trip in order to raise the profile of science in their community and fulfil both the vision and the nature of science components of the curriculum. However, it is vital to incorporate these aspects into normal science lessons too, so going on the trip is simply seen as an extension, something any student could achieve with sufficient drive and determination.

-          David Paterson is HOD Science at Cashmere High School, Christchurch.

To find out more about going to Space Camp feel free to contact me at: ptd@cashmere.school.nz

or look at our wiki: http://cashmerehighspacecamptrip.wikispaces.com/home

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