Saturday, December 18, 2010

Report: Honeywell NASA Educators@SpaceCamp 2

Dear All,

This is the second part of my experience attending the Honeywell NASA Educators@SpaceCamp.

I will be talking about how this camp will help me in my teaching.


Rodney Tan
2) What knowledge have you gained from the program that can assist you in teaching your pupils?

The activities and experiences were aimed at motivating students towards learning science by using the Problem Solving method, i.e. analysing the problem, coming up with possible solutions, building, testing and evaluating the solution. This process was repeated until a viable solution to the problem was found. This was clearly seen in the Heat Shield Challenge where teams tried to build heat shields that protects spacecrafts as they reentered the earth’s atmosphere. Using just a tin foil, a screw and nut, copper netting, a piece of wood and glue (and a Bunsen burner), students can be brought to think through creatively how to make the longest lasting heat shield. And the fun part is students like to compete with each other to see who can produce the best heat shield in two tries. We too had great fun trying to outdo the other teachers in our quest to develop the best heat shields. For Science teachers, this method will engage our students to develop their problem solving skills.

Another highlight of the activities is that they made the process of learning enjoyable and meaningful. Through practical projects such as rocket building, experiencing weightlessness through mechanical means and many other simulations, brought Science to real life. We build two different rockets. The water bottle rocket was build as a team of four while the model engine rocket was individually constructed. I have never seen a 2-litre fizzy drink bottle go that high or that fast before! The model rocket that I build had a perfect launch and its parachute opened up beautifully with a soft landing away from the trees. Imagine if we teachers had such fun, what more our students when they try out these fantastic activities. As an English teacher, this activity would involve giving oral and written instructions. Students will write a report about their experience or the experiment. What a motivating way to write an essay!

I hope I can motivate my students to literally and metaphorically 'reach for the stars'. What I have learned from another country’s space programme, we in Malaysia could replicate, adapt and innovate to suit our local context and resources. Malaysia has sent an astronaut to space and we may likely send another person to space in the near future. I hope that next astronaut is a teacher! Besides, we want to encourage our students to be interested in space science, particularly in fields such as rocketry, satellite and communication technology, astronomy, space medicine, space engineering and space research. Through my participation in this Educators Space Camp, I hope to be able to work with like-minded organisation like The Ministry of Education, The Malaysian Space Agency, the Astronautical Society of Malaysia, the Science Centre or the Planetariums to develop and organise programmes such as the Space Camps for our students and teachers.

Many of the science experiments that we learned at the Space Camp can be easily reproduced in the classroom as they are made from everyday, inexpensive materials and are safe for students.

As an English teacher, one common theme in our English syllabus is science and technology. With lots of space science and space discoveries materials available on the Internet and the media, many wonderful English lessons can be developed from there.

We learnt about how astronauts eat in outer-space.

A air spray painting done by a resident artist at the Space & Science Museum

My team members trying to simulate weightlessness in the International Space Station module.

Our indivually built model rockets being prepared for an electronic launch conducted from a safe distance.

Standing with the author of 'Space Cowboys' and ex-NASA Director, Ed Buckbee  

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