Maffett, the sixth grade science teacher at East Forsyth Middle School, wrote the grant proposal earlier in the year in hopes that she could attend the academy and gain important learning skills she could pass along to her students.
“I got to be a student for five days and live there,” she said. “There were 45 teachers. Six were from Australia and the others were from across the U.S.”
Maffett said the connection she made with the other teachers will hopefully enable her to be able to Skype with classrooms around the country and the world.
During the academy, Maffett gained information that pertained to the STEM education curriculum. Subject areas include space travel, engineering and math.
In order to learn the different subject material, Maffett was introduced to a variety of lessons including: classroom activities, problem solving skills, and physical obstacles.
One of the problem solving skills Maffett had to endure was put to the test during two mock missions: one lunar and one shuttle.
During the lunar mission Maffett took a virtual trip to the moon.
“We did a little bit of science while we were there and relieved people that were already (on the moon),” she said.
Maffett noted that they were given a manual of tasks they had to perform while on the lunar mission.
“It put us in the mindset of our students because they don’t always get everything the first time and we didn’t either,” she admitted.
On the second day of the space academy, Maffett had the chance to be a flight instructor for a mock shuttle mission that replicated the last Atlantis shuttle mission.
“During the shuttle mission, I was the flight instructor. They were throwing alarms and different scenarios at us. You had to use your problem solving skills to solve the problems and you had to work as a team,” she said.
On the third day, Maffett was taken out of her comfort zone through physical challenges, such as indoor rock climbing, using a zip line, and being put into a simulated helicopter that was dropped into water.
“While underwater, we had to work together to get out of the helicopter with all of our teammates,” she said, noting there was a lifeguard nearby to monitor them. “They didn’t pressure you to do anything you didn’t want to do and safety was their biggest concern. But when you have people telling you you can do it, you believe you can.”
After completing a day of physical challenges, Maffett had the chance to experience classroom lessons she feels she will be able to use in her own classroom.
“We made rockets and set them off,” she said. “They let us paint them like we would let our students do, which allowed us to take ownership of the lesson.”
During another lesson, Maffett’s group had to design a shield that would allow a spacecraft to return to Earth through the atmosphere safely. Each group was given a raw egg as their astronaut and materials including cork, tin foil, mesh, and drywall putty.
“We had to make something that was no more than a half inch thick,” she said.
After creating their shield, they were set in front of a blowtorch to see if their astronaut would survive. Sadly, Maffett’s group did not succeed and their astronaut went up in flames.
“Another group figured it out. They just used a bunch of cork. We thought metal would work the best, but it was actually the cork,” she said. “We had to learn the hard way like our students do.”
The last lesson the students at the space camp had to do involved designing a rover.
“We had to design a rover that would survive a drop from a rocket onto Mars,” she said.
She explained that everything they did during the space academy had a purpose, adding that during each lesson and activity they had to work together as a team.
“My team of 13 was the Columbus team. We were all different and will be life-long friends,” Maffett said.
Not only did Maffett gain great friends during her experience, she also gained resources that will allow her to collaborate and have the opportunity to do joint lesson plans. Her experience also allowed her to gain useful lesson plans she can access through Wiki
After returning from her trip, Maffett was eager to display her space suit and learning materials on her wall for her students to see.
“I cannot wait to teach what I learned to my students,” she said with a smile.