Tuesday, October 28, 2014

TOP STORY >> Students going to Space Camp

Leader staff writer

Area schools are giving fifth-grade students a chance to dream about being astronauts and oceanographers with spring trips to Space Camp and Sea Camp.

Both Cabot Middle School North and South have made the annual three-day trek to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., for years in the spring. The cost is $370. It includes all meals, snacks, T-shirts, lodging and transportation.

Scholarship opportunities are available to send students whose families cannot afford the cost. The parent-teacher organization and individuals donate.

Cabot Middle School South principal Georgia Chastain said, “It is fun. There is always something to do.”

Middle School South sent 240 students. Middle School North had 270 students attending. The schools went at different days.

Chastain said the students are in groups of six with a chaperone. At the camp, 15 students are paired with a camp counselor.

It takes seven charter buses to make the trip.

Chastain said Space Camp lets the students participate in a simulated space flight and space walks. A simulated space mission allows students to assume different roles and successfully land the space craft.

The museum has rockets from the 1950s to now. The students get to make rockets. They sleep in a space habitat that looks like a space ship. Chastain also said they have a space bowl that is like a quiz bowl competition. Students design mission patches.

“I like the Space Shot (ride). You go straight up and it drops you down real fast,” Chastain said.

“The students don’t realize they are learning. They come away with knowledge about the space program. They learn about flight, physics, math, science and history,” Chastain said.

Cabot Middle School Space Camp coordinator Susan Corn said, “It is great opportunity for students to get hands-on learning. They are able to do things they would not normally be able to do like the mock missions. The Space Camp counselors are very well trained and know more about space than we could.”

“We hope it inspires students to work towards working in space as an astronaut or a scientist who works on the ground. It is a good bonding experience with the teachers and students you don’t get in the classroom,” Corn said.

Corn said students get a brief synopsis of what they’ll see and learn in the classroom before the trip.

“It is very tiring. We go hard all day long. There is no TV in the room and no time to hang out. Kids have activities. Every minute is accounted for. They talk about the rest of the school year,” Corn said.

“I have parents that want to chaperone because they remember going on the Space Camp trip,” Corn said.

Corn said students who do not go to Space Camp have a space day at CMSN on that Friday that they enjoy. It is a similar curriculum the campers will experience.

Beebe Middle School sixth graders have gone every year. Last year the trip was open to fifth, sixth and seventh graders. They had 150 students. Beebe will skip this year but plans to resume next year with fifth and sixth grades, to be more economical for parents.

Dupree Elementary is the only school in Jacksonville or Sherwood that takes a similar out-of-state trip. Dupree heads to Sea Camp in April at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

Last year, 30 students rode a charter bus.

The two-day trip is open to all fourth graders. The cost is $300 and covers transportation, dorms and meals for the students. The school works with the parent teacher organization and local businesses to help raise funds for students who need financial assistance.

“Any child who wants to go can, with their parent’s permission, we will make it happen,” Dupree principal Janice Walker said.

Walker said on the first day, students attend class and get an overview of types of sea life. They look at specimens under the microscope.

Then they go to the marsh and capture the sea life they learned about earlier in the day. In the evenings they write in their journals about what they learned.

The next morning the students go to Ship Island, the Mississippi Sound in the Gulf of Mexico. Then they tour Fort Massachusetts and the Civil War marker.

Students take a pretest and a post test to measure their learning.

Walker said the children get a hands-on opportunity with science. They get the experience of going to an out-of-state college and staying at a dorm. It may inspire them to attend college in the future.

When the students come back to Dupree they are able to share their learning and have to give a presentation.