Teacher’s training ‘out of this world’Published 8:45pm Wednesday, April 11, 2012
It’s no different for a big kid to go to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., as will Edwardsburg Public Schools eighth-grade earth science teacher Robert Wright on June 15-21.
“I’m so excited,” said Wright, 39, who has taught 12 years for Edwardsburg. “I’ve been wanting to go to space camp since I was a little kid growing up in Cassopolis. I’ve applied the last couple of years. You’re not competing against 200 American teachers, but the entire world. Each year, I have new experiences to add, like hunting geodes with my family.”
Geodes are spherical masses of mineral matter deposited in rock formations.
The Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program is designed to help teachers move beyond standard math and science curriculum with supplemental teaching techniques developed through real-life astronaut training.
Wright, LaGrange Township supervisor, will be among approximately 200 teachers participating with the Class of 2012 and joining a network of more than 1,650 graduates from 45 countries and all 50 states.
Honeywell Educators participate in 45 hours of professional development, as well as an intensive educator curriculum focused on space science and exploration. Activities include classroom, laboratory and field training exercises linked to U.S. science and math teaching standards.
Each teacher also undergoes real-life astronaut training, including a high-performance jet simulation, scenario-based space missions, land and water survival training and state-of-the-art flight dynamics programs.
Each Honeywell Educator receives a full scholarship including tuition for the six-day program, round-trip airfare, meals, accommodations and program materials, all underwritten by Honeywell and its employees.
“One of the things I saw on the website was parachuting from a disabled helicopter into a pool,” the 1991 Ross Beatty High School graduate said.
Wright, who is also a Southwestern Michigan College graduate, teaches Cassopolis driver training, so his trip will delay that a week. He and his wife, Tonya, who teaches sixth grade math at Edwardsburg Middle School, both attended Central Michigan University. He earned his master’s degree from Grand Valley State University.
The Wrights have two sons, Brady, 5, in kindergarten, and Michael, 3.
“They think I’m going to the moon,” he said.
Actually, he already tried that and has been certified to handle moon rocks.
“I actually applied through NASA nine years ago,” he said. “I made three of the seven cuts for the new teacher in space program.
“I’ve been interested in space since ‘Star Wars’ at 4 or 5 years old. Things I do in my classes for 210 students with rocketry and technology fit this. About 2003, I contacted NASA and we had an astronaut come to Edwardsburg.”
Wright thought Dowagiac Middle School Co-Principal Matt Severin’s BalloonSats project preparing payloads for high-altitude balloons launched into near space by a University of Kansas doctoral candidate “was so cool I showed that to my class. That makes an impact on students.”
“When we go somewhere as a family, we try to do something science-related,” Wright said.