She finally gets signal from outer space


The Mirror

To say Jamie Johnson likes outer space is an understatement.

The Illahee Middle School science teacher loves space so much she seriously considered being an astronaut when she was a student.

So, you’ll understand her enthusiasm for being selected to attend the Space Academy for Educators workshop next month at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

“I would love to get into outer space,” said Johnson, a teacher at Illahee in the Federal Way Public Schools system for seven years.

The appeal?

“There’s so much out there we don’t know,” she said.

Johnson was selected from more than 600 applicants and will join 200 educators from 43 states and 19 countries at the 12-day program June 16-23. They will work 13-hour days in classes related to science and space. What they learn can be incorporated into their schools’ curriculum. They will also experience some of the training astronauts go through before getting on the Space Shuttle.

“It’s going to be intense, but it’s going to be incredible,” Johnson said.

Honeywell, the multi-industry company, is sponsoring the space camp and paying for teachers to attend. The company started the program in 2004.

Candidates had to answer a question about what obstacles they faced in the classroom and write a one-page essay on the impact an individual teacher could have on those obstacles. Judges graded the essays based on the positive ideas and comments in their essay and that they showed initiative and action in their classrooms and community, according to Katrine Balch, the space camp’s director of education.

Illahee principal Stacy Lucas left the application in Johnson’s mailbox at school last fall. “I just took it as a sign I needed to apply,” Johnson said.

She had put aside the idea of going into space years earlier and decided this opportunity would be the closest she would have to realizing that dream.

Her only previous close encounter with the national space program was in 1998 when she lived in Kentucky and went to see one of the space shuttles grounded because of weather.

Based on the information from the space camp, the classes Johnson and the other educators will participate in will keep them busy. There is an engineering course where teachers tackle the problems NASA engineers face, hydroponics (growing plants without soil) and creating sundials and rockets.

Teachers will also learn what it feels like to walk on the moon, tumble in a spacelike environment and participate in a mock shuttle mission.

When she returns from the camp, Johnson said she hopes her passion and excitement for space will be energized by the experience and her students will sense it in class. She also wants to show how the concepts taught in science are used outside of the classroom, always the measuring stick students use.

And that’s important for the aerospace industry, which reported in 2002 that 26 percent of its workforce will be eligible for retirement in 2008.

The Aerospace Industries Association has made it a priority to convince students to consider aerospace careers, according to Matt Grimison, spokesman for the organization.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565,

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