Space academy is out of this world for local teachers

Three Federal Way teachers attended the Honeywell Educators Space Academy. - Courtesy photo
Three Federal Way teachers attended the Honeywell Educators Space Academy.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Cheryl Williamson just had the experience of a lifetime.

Williamson, along two other Federal Way teachers, participated in the Honeywell Educators Space Academy.

"It's an amazing program," Williamson said. "I was so excited. It's great what we can do for our kids."

Williamson teaches at Lakota Middle School in the Cambridge science program. She was joined by fellow teachers Nickalous Reykdal of Totem Middle School and Crystal Madera, who teaches at Illahee Middle School.

This year, 288 teachers from 47 states and 16 countries participated in the weeklong event.

Williamson was one of 1,600 applicants for the grant. There were 90 teachers in her session, which ran from June 13-19 in Huntsville, Alabama.

Williamson's team was Team Destiny, and included teachers from California, Maine, Michigan, Florida, Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Nevada, Canada, Switzerland and Australia.

Each day, the teams started at 7 a.m. for breakfast and went each day until about 8 p.m., building rockets, doing math and learning what it's like to be an astronaut.

Activities include classroom, laboratory and field training that are linked to science and math teaching standards. Each teacher will participates in real-life astronaut training exercises including a high-performance jet simulation, scenario-based space missions, land and water survival training, and a state-of-the-art flight dynamics program.

"I am going to take it back to my kids," Williamson said.

Williamson plans to hold a space night at the school, which will include students building their own rockets.

Williamson did two mock missions, including repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope.

"It's all about taking all this and bringing the excitement back to the classroom," Williamson said. "It's an emotional experience for all ages. Everyone was feeling the same way."

The teachers also got to speak with astronauts and participate in several labs, including creating a toy that would work in space — and creating a heat shield with copper mesh, aluminum foil, wooden dowels, glue, washers, screws and bolts.

One of Williamson's favorite activities: Putting on a helicopter harness and speeding down a zip line over a lake for the aviation challenge, which was a helicopter rescue.

The teams all went through 45 hours of class labs and field training geared for math and science teachers. Williamson is already planning ways to bring it into her lab work for the seventh-grade students in the Cambridge program.

Williamson also has gotten the space bug — she applied for the next stage of the program in August.

She also encourages any of her students to sign up for space academies. There are some available, but students must pay their own way. The teachers' way is paid for by the grant.

Financial contributions from more than 1,300 Honeywell employees help support the scholarships, which include tuition for the five-day program, roundtrip airfare, meals, accommodations and program materials.

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