30 for 30 #5: Space Camp

If you’ve known me long enough, then you know that I love all things related to NASA. This love began when I was a child. As a young boy, my life-long goal was to be an astronaut. I read books about outer space; I watched movies about astronauts; my treehouse was a space shuttle at various times; I had NASA posters in my room. My love for outer space permeated everything.

Knowing that this was a huge passion for me, my parents arranged for me to attend Space Camp at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. I was in 6th grade at the time and was completely dedicated to pursuing a career as an astronaut. Needless to day, it was a big deal for me to go to Space Camp for a week.

And what a week it was! We had simulated missions, we toured the museum, we slept in a “habitat module” (which is a fancy Space Camp term for “dorms”), we launched model rockets, we watched videos of the Space Shuttle, and we learned all about the history of space flight. I could not have been more excited!

So, why did this passion not turn into a career? To make a long story short, it came down to eyesight. Being born in the Top Gun era (which is my favorite movie), and knowing that some of my favorite astronauts were also Naval aviators (e.g. Jim Lovell), my desire was to join the Navy and then NASA. But, my eyesight is pretty bad, and I realized at some point that such a goal would probably be unattainable. So, I left the ideas of space flight behind, which did end up working very well, as I can look back and see how God has used every experience to bring me to the point where I am now, and that I am 100% satisfied with His plan for my life. This is something that I will pursue in another post…

Nevertheless, as I began teaching science in Brooklyn, this passion for space began to develop once again. I began using NASA-inspired materials for lessons. I showed my students videos of NASA launches and interviews with astronauts. I even took them to a local Challenger center to simulate a mission to Mars.

Then, a great opportunity arose – I applied to a program that sponsored educators to attend Space Academy for Educators and was accepted. I was able to fly to Huntsville and spend a week reliving one of my favorite times from my childhood. Upon arrival I was assigned to work with a group of educators from around the country, Australia, and Canada. We simulated missions, launched rockets, built heat shields, toured the museum, watched movies, and became good friends. (Sounds familiar, huh?) Plus, I was able to learn about so many resources which I have been able to use in my classroom. It was a great week and seriously impacted my teaching.

Just like Space Camp ignited a passion in a 6th grade boy to pursue science, it ignited a passion in an educator to inspire his students.

My passion for Space continues. I still enjoy reading astronaut biographies. Click HERE to see my favorites. I still enjoy watching NASA videos, the best of which is the Discovery Channel miniseries When We Left Earth. And, I’m able to inspire my students and others through my work as a teacher and an official Space Camp Ambassador.

One day, I plan to return again, but this time to drop off my own kids. I’d love for them to have the same experience and be inspired to enjoy science in such a practical way.


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