EarthKAM Feb 20 Mission

Jump onboard for the upcoming International Space Station EarthKAM opportunity. Middle years schooling is an ideal area to incorporate space science, geography and some juicy maths. Students upload photo requests to the remote camera onboard the ISS. The images are then made available for student investigation and analysis.

Bottle Rocket Design Competition – NSW Aeronautical Velocity Challenge

This year students from stage 3 participated in the NSW Aeronautical Velocity Challenge – a competition designed to encourage STEM skills across bottle rockets and model planes for all ages and education sectors.

The winners were getting upwards of 125m in distance, which is very impressive. Mt Ousley PS has spent quite some time over the past few years using rocketry as a way to hook kids into loving science, maths and all things space. So it was great to join in this event.

While model engine rockets have a place in my program after visits to the Honeywell Educators@Spacecamp program,  I also love bottle rockets for the relative simplicity of teaching elements of design, maths and physics. With variables including fin and nose cone design, rocket mass and balance and air/water fuel balance, the opportunity arises for many iterations and tests to obtain maximum flight.

Our team ran with a simple 1.2L bottle, foam core fins, a weighted nose cone and a decorative mission patch which is a terrific way to incorporate elements of human endeavour, art and symbolism. Not the most evolutionary but a sound starting point for their first competition.

One of the best aspects of sharing in these days is getting to see how other teams approach the design process. Many primary and secondary schools were using 3D printers to design fins and nose cones. There were also quite a few jigs and spacers being used to carefully hot glue on the various components. Our team came away excitedly planning how they might approach future builds.

When it came to what mattered – the launches, they were a mix of long and impressive flight, some mid air collapses and a few with wayward direction due to design flaws with balance, fins, weight etc. Rocketry is a truly engaging STEM activity that offers wonderful design opportunities and a visible result as to success or otherwise.

Of course it’s always fun to launch, fire or blast a rocket and both teachers and students enjoy the experience. Importantly rocketry can be done safely with some basic attention to cutting and tool instruction and well considered launch and recovery procedures. Always learning!

2016 Honeywell Educators@Spacecamp

You only have to read previous posts to see how much the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program has influenced my STEM teaching over the past five years –from rocketry and space, LEGO NXT and EV3 robotics to innovative math lessons such as 2015 coding with Sphero and Parrot Spider mini-drones.

Applications are now open for 2016. Follow the link for a possible countdown to global collaboration, life long friendships and rewarding professional learning!

Dare Mighty Things!


Honeywell Educators@Spacecamp and NOAA Teacher at Sea Applications Open

Well two great teacher professional learning events are now accepting applications for the 2013 program. Honeywell Educators@Spacecamp I’ve written about previously and the week provides a wonderful immersive experience in space science and STEM related content at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Alabama. Apply here for 2013 –

The NOAA Teacher at Sea program I’ve not yet experienced but colleagues such as Kaci Heins and Jenny Goldner both speak highly of the aims and experiences. Working with scientists in the field does enable teachers to better understand the scientific process and then take that learning and apply it to the classroom.  Apply here for 2012 –

Both programs are about promoting and encouraging the pursuit of science.

Apply now and embrace the learning on offer!


Honeywell Advanced Educators@Space Academy 2012

Well I have just returned from an amazing, stimulating and highly rewarding experience at the Honeywell Advanced Educators @Space Academy at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama.

I first attended Honeywell Educators @Space Academy in 2010 and a review is on this blog. When I was selected to attend the Advanced course this year I was excited and eager to join fourteen other middle school teachers who have a similar passion and interest in not only space and science education but in learning itself.

During ten days we participated in a range of team and confidence building activities such as the ‘Pamper Pole’ climbing and trust ropes course, space briefings on the shuttle program and future NASA directions such as the Space Launch System (SLS), multiple simulated missions, scuba in the Underwater Astronaut Trainer, sessions with astronauts and visit to the Kennedy Space Centre.

Kennedy was a real highlight for everyone and after the twelve hour bus ride we couldn’t wait to visit launch pad 39 and the Orbiter Processing Facility where we stood under the Atlantis during its decommissioning. This is something special for anyone interested in space exploration and NASA achievement.

Finishing off with Lego Mindstorm Robotics was a rewarding finale and for someone with little robotics experience like myself was valuable and enjoyable professional learning.

While that’s a summary of activities the intangibles of a program like this are what really matters. When you put fifteen like-minded passionate, curious, creative, geeky and crazy teachers together for ten days great things happen. We talked, shared, supported, encouraged and worked as true team for the entire period. We took risks and laughed and cried at successes and failures…. we all need both to learn and grow, as do our students and we should all continually be pushing and stretching forward in the pursuit of learning.

So now as the new school term commences I’ll be looking to incorporate and grow school programs in rocketry and robotics and through those themes expose our students to the deep learning and quality teaching that comes with investigation and design, test and re-test and collaborative inquiry based learning.

Thank you Honeywell, the USA Space and Rocket Centre, NASA and especially the wonderful people of Team Kennedy (and our leader Dan who kept us on track and out of trouble!).

Lifelong learning rocks!!


Honeywell Advanced Educators@Spacecamp

I’m excited about my upcoming return trip to the US Space and Rocket Center and the Advanced Educators Spacecamp in June 2012. The educational and professional values are exceptional. Since my first trip I’ve introduced Rocketry and Space programs in general class programs but also for enrichment classes and the Research group at my new school – Mt Ousley PS .

This next trip will consolidate existing skills and introduce new opportunities to encourage and promote science  and math education in the K-6 context.

Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy 2012 Applications

The Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program has influenced my teaching greatly in the past year –from rocketry and space to innovative math lessons.

Applications are now open for 2012. Follow the link for a possible countdown to a rewarding learning opportunity!!

2012 Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy Applications

EarthKAM Jan 18-21 2011

After a few delays and cancellations a new Earthkam mission is open for registration. Have your students jump (virtually of course) on board the ISS and take images of earth from the onboard digital camera.

This offers a great opportunity for math education as students need to identify appropriate orbits and the latitude and longitude to get a photo of their desired location.

Check it out here – EarthKAM

Sussex Inlet PS Rocket Club Mission One – reflection

Pop Rockets

Well its been a little over three months since I attended the Honeywell Space Academy for Educators program at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Alabama, a detailed review is a few posts below. One of the highlights was exploring how elementary students can be safely introduced to space exploration and the science behind it through a rocketry based curriculum.

On my return I established an after school rocket club targetted at a small group of eight upper primary students who expressed interest in participating. I was looking to pilot a five week program that stepped students through a range of theory and practical lessons using rocketry as the means of creating, stimulating, encourage interest in science and math related curriculum.

I based my program on the NASA Rockets Educators Guide and the Victorian Space Science and Education Centre’s Rocketry for Kids Resource along with numerous videos including Apollo, Ares and the private SpaceX consortium.

The students stepped through the following sequence;

Week 1 – Rocket history, space links, basic physics, balloon rocket construction, test and redesign, mission patch

Week 2 – Ares Rocket development, SpaceX, design and fly pop rockets (bicarb soda and alka seltzer)

Week 3 -Estes models rockets, flight trajectory, apogee, build Estes Alpha kit rocket

Week 4 – Launch day( what it’s all about!), fly A and B engine models.

Week 5 – Review course, fly C engine rocket and complete mission patch

The kids greatly enjoyed the design and make process and and off course firing the models gave everyone a huge buzz. I’ve considered a bottle rocket component and will include this activity when I can build a suitable safe and reliable launcher.

One of the important features of the investigate, design, make process that is often overlooked  in classrooms due to time is the importance of redesign and retest. It is through this process that critical thinking and analysis takes place and leads to improved design outcomes.

The course will run again next term  with a new group and again I’ll take their feedback and refine. So far, so good and I hope we have gained a few more students heading into high school with an enthusiasm and energy for science and math related study and careers.

Building Alpha Rockets On the launchpad! Launching

Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy – debrief


What an exhausting, illuminating, exciting and immersive week of space and science education at Spacecamp.

Despite it being a very hot Alabama summer there was lot of thinking and teamwork in the cool learning spaces of the US Space and Rocket Centre. Working in teams of 16 teachers we were lead by a very capable and enthusiastic team of professional educators with, you guessed it, a passion of space, maths, physics and rockets!

And despite the  thrill of experiencing a 1/6 gravity chair to simulate moon walking or being spun in all directions in a multi-axis trainer to simulate a re-entry, a lot of quality teacher professional development was happening through a range of activities and experiences designed to build our confidence and expertise in motivating and encouraging students to enjoy the challenge and reward that science, technology and math can offer when presented with passion.

The key to our success was through letting us play… as simple as that. With some guiding tips and the basics of science we were exploring aerodynamics and thrust through rocketry, manipulating materials to develop efficient heat shields, building landing devices and exploring DNA. Lots of student centred teamwork through missions and the opportunity to re-test and rebuild our designs to improve. Student centred project based collaborative learning……again!

Not least of the rewards was spending time with international teachers from elementary and secondary sectors with experience in math or biology or K-6 science to name a few. We all had different perspectives and beliefs but were united through a common interest and desire to increase and improve our teaching skills and motivate our students. A fellow teacher, Steve Schreiner has commented at length and his thoughts can be found here.

So where to for Sussex Inlet PS students? In a couple of weeks we commence an after school rocket club. It will be targeted to a small group of senior students who complete an expression of interest. We will explore the basic science concepts, however importantly students will design, construct, test and re-test balloon rockets, pop rockets and finally an model rocket with engine.

At class level the impressive range of NASA educational materials will be leveraged and one of my favourites, the Earthcam project will be used by students to upload photo requests to the International Space Station. Just think, students at a small coastal school in NSW Australia will be identifying and requesting images be taken from the ISS… what an opportunity.

And that’s what it’s all about in education and life… creating opportunities, embracing opportunities and learning from opportunities.


Honeywell Spacecamp for Educators

I’m excited to have been one of seven Australian teachers selected to attend the international 2010 Honeywell Spacecamp for Educators program at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama. This 5-12 educator program brings together 120 scholarship teachers with an interest in space and math education into an intensive week long camp. The global networking opportunities alone have already got me counting down to blast off. You can find out more about spacecamp here!