This week I am coming to you live from Huntsville, Alabama where I am privileged to be attending International Space Camp. Last night was our “opening ceremonies” where the teachers of the year from every state introduced themselves and their state while wearing some sort of costume to represent their state. We had New York dressed as the Statue of Liberty and the guy from Washington as a nearly fully functioning Mount St. Helens and 48 other costumes. After each state introduced themselves and presented, we had the great pleasure to listen to our international counterparts speak about their countries which was both highly informative as well as entertaining. My favorite was the German students who presented a couple abridged versions of Brothers Grimm fairy tales in hilarious fashion.
Beyond the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremony we have also had the opportunity to listen to Astronaut Charlie Duke. He spoke to our group about his experiences in NASA and his Apollo 16 flight and subsequent walk on the Moon. Needless to say there is something surreal listening to a man talk about walking on the moon in the same manner I talk about walking to the ice cream shop. In addition to Duke, we had dinner with other members of NASA’s space program including some of the original designers and engineers that worked on the Saturn 5 which was directly overhead as we ate.
Today we begin our flight missions and presumably the real “fun” of Space Camp that many children have dreamed of participating in. As I being this week full of learning, challenges and surely a great deal of fun, I am reflecting on a comment made in our first session when we arrived here at Camp. The coordinator of the program was introducing Space Camp and the ideals of NASA and overall space exploration. While doing so she said, “we explore because it’s there.”
She didn’t say we explore because we have to. Nor did she say we explore because we are being asked to. Yes, you can argue that the engineers and astronauts were doing their work because it was their job and they did have someone telling them to do just that. However, at the very basic level, the exploration of space was out of a sense of wonder and amazement and probably a heavy dose of curiosity. When you listen to the people involved in the early years of NASA as we have this weekend, they truly loved what they did. They wanted to put man into outer space and did just that. They were creative problem solvers and critical thinkers because they had to be. What is more amazing is just what they were able to accomplish with the level of technology they had available. As Duke said, we have more technological power within an iPhone that he did on the entire Apollo 16 ship. That is staggering.
I plan on using the phrase “we explore because it’s there” in my classroom. I want my student to explore and discover because it’s there, not because it will be on the test or because it is in the curriculum map. I want them to learn because it’s there…period.