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Space Camp Was Out of This World
By: Teachers Debbie Brummit, Ruthie Grote, Jim Holmes, Larry Huusko, Lauren Shouse, and Upper School Director Gail Clark
What do learning the nine steps required to fire a Civil War musket, Ivy Green, Space Shot, the Multi-Axis Trainer, IMAX movies, the march in Selma, Alabama, and a really, really, really long bus ride have in common? These were the thrills that we experienced on our sixth grade class trip to the Civil War Battlefield at Shiloh, Tennessee, to Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller, to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and then to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis Tennessee. All together, we traveled through seven states.
When we arrived at Shiloh Battlefield, Ranger Brian, donning a Union soldier’s military uniform, gave us a demonstration of how to fire a Civil War musket. It is no wonder that this battle was one of the goriest battles of the war. It took a soldier at least a minute to load the musket, while being shot at by the enemy. We then toured the park with Ranger Brian. Under his guidance, we were able to see the United Daughters of the Confederacy Monument, Shiloh Church, Colonel Everett Peabody’s monument, Bloody Pond, the Chickasaw Indian’s mounds, the Pittsburg Landing and many state monuments, including Missouri’s.
The next morning we stopped at Ivy Green. After reading The Miracle Worker this year, it was fascinating to see the actual water pump where the miracle occurred. The students were amazed to see how small the plantation was, and they found the clothes and artifacts interesting. One of the highlights was listening to a speech that Helen Keller delivered. The students were in awe that she was able to learn to talk at all since she could not hear herself talking. We all left with a sense of admiration and respect for her.
We traveled on to Huntsville and stopped for lunch at a McDonalds. One of our students noticed a homeless man sitting on a curb outside of the restaurant and on his own accord bought a cheeseburger for the man. The man stood up and shook his hand and said thank you. Several students were moved by all of this, especially the student who had bought the lunch. They decided to take up a collection of money for him. When it was time to get on the bus, he told one of the teachers to tell the kids that he loved them at that he was a Vietnam vet. As the bus left the McDonalds, the man saluted the bus.
Space Camp was our next stop. When we arrived, we were divided into two groups: Team Aldrin and Team Armstrong. After orientation, we were off to a fun-filled and exhausting two days. During this time, students learned about the history and future of space travel. This included the early space program, and the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and STS space programs. We walked among real, full sized rockets like the V-2, the Saturn 1B, the Saturn V, and the Redstone. The counselor for Team Aldrin actually worked for NASA during the last two missions of the Space Transportation System (Space Shuttle). He willingly shared his experiences and the students found his stories to be very interesting.
Our greatest challenge involved a simulated space shuttle mission in which the students assumed the roles of astronauts, mission control technicians, and scientists. Part of the team was in mission control, part in the orbiter, and part in the ISS (International Space Station). Some of the astronauts performed experiments and some actually did an extra vehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalk. The counselors for both teams said that each group did an excellent job.
On Thursday night, both teams competed in the Space Bowl (a game resembling Jeopardy) against each other and five other teams. The sixth graders had spent three weeks before our trip researching the history of space. Rossman came through with flying colors. Team Aldrin won first place and Team Armstrong came in second.
The following is a note from one of the counselors that was given to Mrs. Grote when we left Friday morning:
“This is honestly the best team I’ve ever had. They’re enthusiastic, attentive, and so bright-they know more about space exploration than I do. They’re respectful, take the information and mission so seriously. I’ve never had a team that cared about Space Camp this much; on top of that, they listen, include their teammates, and each of their awesome personalities shone through from the time they arrived. “
On Friday morning we left after having breakfast and headed for Memphis, Tennessee to visit the National Civil Rights Museum. This is the assassination sight of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The students were able to build upon prior knowledge from sixth grade social studies while perusing the exhibits. We experienced a replica of the sit-in movement at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and a replica of the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. They also heard more about the Supreme Court case Brown vs. the Board of Education, which outlawed segregation in public schools. Our guide was very informative and interesting. We realized that we could have spent several days at the museum because there was so much to see. It was a quick tour and all felt that another visit, perhaps with our own families, would be worth the trip.
We boarded the bus at 3:00. Everyone had had a wonderful trip, but all were ready to get home. The chaperones were so proud of each of the students. Their behavior and attitudes were exemplary. Their undying enthusiasm and interest in each aspect of the trip was a treat to experience. The students consistently followed the four Rossman rules of honesty, kindness, respect and responsibility. This was one of the best trips we have taken and an experience that was simply out of this world.