Teacher is ready for liftoff

After attending space camp in Alabama, a Broadneck Elementary educator is ready to take learning to a new frontier.

Education Beat

News from Anne Arundel County schools and colleges

July 17, 2005|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Catherine Maloney's friends have been teasing her, saying she's the only person they know who would rave about a trip to Alabama in steamy-hot July.

But Maloney said she would gladly go in August if it meant participating in space camp again.

Maloney, who teaches fourth grade at Broadneck Elementary School in Arnold, just returned from a week at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Space Camp in Huntsville.

"I can't stop talking about it to all my friends," she said. "I think it's going to infuse my teaching with so much enthusiasm."

Maloney was one of 144 teachers from all over the world to win an all-expenses-paid trip to the center from June 25 to July 1, where she participated in an intense curriculum for educators focusing on space science and exploration.

Honeywell International, the technology company, sponsors the program, now in its second year. The idea, said Honeywell spokesman James O'Leary, is to "inspire the next generation of scientists" by giving teachers new tools and ideas.

"Basically, as a technology leader, Honeywell depends on a talented work force," he said.

The Honeywell Educators at Space Academy program pays for airfare, meals, accommodations at the University of Alabama, curriculum materials and even a flight suit for the teachers.

"It was amazing because everything was taken care of," Maloney said.

Participants take part in real astronaut training exercises, including a jet simulation.

"I feel like a brand-new teacher again," said Maloney, who will start her 12th year as an educator when summer ends.

"They were full days. You started at 7 in the morning," she said, and they often didn't stop until 7 at night. "We were really, really tired when we came home, but really inspired and really energized."

Maloney shared a room with teachers from New Hampshire, Minnesota and Texas.

"When we got back [at the end of each day], we would all brainstorm about how we would use what we had learned," she said.

She learned of the program from Scott Wetzel, whose son was in Maloney's class a few years ago. Wetzel works at Honeywell, and he e-mailed her with information about space camp, urging her to apply.

"So I applied," Maloney said. "It was only a one-page application, and I never thought I would hear anything."

The deadline for the application was Feb. 15, she said. On April 15, she got an e-mail saying she had been selected.

"When I got back, I e-mailed him and thanked him; thanked him profusely," Maloney said.

O'Leary said Honeywell received more than 500 applicants from around the world. The top 144 were selected based on essays they had written.

"We ask the teachers to write a 500-word essay, explaining the tools and techniques they feel teachers should use to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in science and technology," he said.

Most of the winners were middle school math and science teachers, but a few administrators and elementary school teachers were chosen as well, he said.

Winners came from 17 countries and 32 states. Most could speak English, Maloney said, but even the ones who struggled with the language dived into the program, which emphasized hands-on exercises.

Maloney has long had an interest in space science. She has attended NASA workshops for teachers, including one that certified her to handle moon rocks, she said.

In 2000, she traveled to Cape Canaveral, Fla., with about 10 pupils to see the launch of the shuttle Endeavor, which carried several of her pupils' projects aboard.

Although it was too foggy to see much, Maloney said, the experience was worthwhile.

"It was incredible to have had that experience," she said. "It really let the kids see, if you put your mind to something, it gets done."

She hopes to do something similar this year if the space shuttle program gets back on track. She also won a promise from Wetzel that he will help build a model of a shuttle in her classroom.

Space camp is run by educators who went through the Honeywell program or similar ones in the past. Maloney said she would love to participate as a program leader in the future.

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