Suffolk goes to space camp

Published 4:59 pm Saturday, September 19, 2015

Among the many teachers and students from around the city who applied for space camp, eighth-grade science teacher Kristina Poole, gifted resource teacher Pamela Stark and eighth-grader Natalie Williford were among those selected to spend five fun-filled days at the exciting summer program.

“Who doesn’t want to go to space camp?” Poole said.

Natalie Williford was not going to be the one to raise her hand to that question.

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Prospective space camp students were required to write an essay on why they wanted to go to space camp, and what they planned to do with the knowledge they learned, Poole said.

Natalie discussed her interest in becoming an engineer in her essay, she said. She has had an appreciation for math and science over the years and knew going to the camp would look great on college applications, she said.

“We did a lot of cool teamwork activities,” Natalie said. At camp, students participated in activities such as spaceship simulators, simulators of shuttle missions and Orion missions, watched movies, attended lectures and more.

“They were really inspiring,” Natalie said. She would someday like to work with NASA, or maybe even to go the International Space Station. She is also looking into attending the engineering program at Nansemond River High School, she said.

The camp took place in Huntsville, Ala., where NASA actually trains its personnel, Poole said. It was there that Northrop Grumman, which sponsors attendees to the camp, hoped to get students excited about eventually go into these fields, Poole said.

Last school year, Northrop Grumman sent out letters stating that they would be sponsoring one teacher and two students to attend the camp, Poole said. However, due to the large number of applicants, they raised it to two teachers and four students.

The teachers weren’t there to simply chaperone — they were there to learn, too.

Teachers participated in flight, moon walk and antigravity simulators, Poole said. They also rode zip lines and did a ropes course as team-building activities.

Their space program was somewhat different and separate from the students’, Poole said. Throughout the program, teachers got the chance to learn how to apply what they were learning in the classroom, whether the teacher taught math, science or English. “We got to be the students,” Poole said.

“One of the coolest things about it was really working with teachers around the country,” Poole said of the teachers she worked with on Team Destiny. “I talk with them every day.” Since camp, the teachers have continued to talk about how their lesson plans have gone.

The teachers got to meet a number of famous people including Ed Buckbee, who trained the first astronauts to land on the moon, and Homer Hickam, on whom the movie “October Sky” was based, Poole said.

Natalie said she appreciates Northrop Grumman’s sponsorship and hopes they do it for others in the future, she said.

The three other students from Suffolk who attended wound up moving out of the district.