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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 teacher “over the moon” about space camp

To say that School District 49 sixth grade math teacher Alyce Dalzell liked the Honeywell Educators Space Academy is equal to saying that astronaut Neil Armstrong “liked” being the first human to walk on the moon.Overjoyed, enthusiastic, jubilant, ecstatic, elated: all are adjectives Dalzell used to describe her experiences at the Honeywell Space Academy, which took place at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.Dalzell spent an all-expense-paid week in late June with 265 other math and science teachers from around the world learning all about NASA and how the space exploration mission has benefited humankind. “I was very surprised at the extent that NASA has had on our everyday lives,” Dalzell said. “Everything from WD40 to diabetic pumps was the result of scientists looking for solutions to space travel.”Throughout the week, Dalzell was exposed to some of the highlights of astronaut training. Through various simulations, she experienced walking on the moon, using tools in near weightlessness, piloting a shuttle and the nauseating feeling associated with the G-forces on the body.Dalzell also was chosen to lead a crew of 12 on a simulated shuttle mission, from launch to landing. “We were given real situations that happened on past missions, and, working as a team, had to solve them,” she said. On another simulated mission, Dalzell, as the designated payload specialist, learned how to operate various test equipment. And, participating in a search and rescue simulation, she had to learn how to find air pockets to be able to breathe in a downed helicopter. “That was a bit scary,” Dalzell said.Every evening featured a guest speaker. Two of Dalzell’s favorites: Homer Hickam Jr., a former NASA engineer and author of the book “Rocket Boys,” which became the hit movie “October Sky,” and retired astronaut Story Musgrave, who flew on six space shuttle flights and spent more than 1,281 hours in space. Dalzell said what impressed her beyond Musgrave’s professional credentials were his personal interests.Musgrave’s passions outside of space travel include literature, poetry and dance. He presented each teacher with a DVD of scenes from space that he choreographed to music. Musgrave’s book of poetry, written from the windows of a spacecraft, has been published as well.Dalzell said she felt the experience and the speakers formulated a strong message to bring back to her students: No matter one’s interests, they can be applied to math and science. “NASA, as well as many engineering companies, employs not only scientists but nutritionists, biologists, geologists, mathematicians and even teachers,” Dalzell said. “Students today need to expand their thinking of not just ‘I want to be a geologist’ but maybe ‘I want to be a lunar geologist.’ Their opportunities are wide open in virtually every field.”Dalzell said she is anxious to get back in the classroom and apply what she’s learned; she’s originated several projects that await her students.One project involves hydroponics – the science of growing plants in water. Dalzell said NASA is in the planning stages of building living quarters on the moon. Astronauts will use the quarters as a base for exploring Mars and figuring out how to grow food on the moon. Dalzell said her students will work in teams, and each team will be given peanut seeds. They will build containers for their peanut seeds from scraps available in the classroom (think of the movie “Apollo 13”) and cultivate the seeds under simulated moon conditions.Another competitive team project that Dalzell’s students can look forward to is designing a model aircraft that weighs the least but flies the longest distance.Dalzell said Honeywell and NASA Web sites offer a vast slate of ideas for teachers as well as a forum for teachers to share ideas and information. She said she can borrow tools, too, such as spectrometers used for testing rocks. “My experiences at space camp, I hope, will be a catalyst to excite my students about math,” Dalzell said.Dalzell’s excitement to return to the classroom in August may be the real catalyst to impassion her students. One might say her excitement is “over the moon.”

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