Teacher lifts off to space camp

VSS teacher Cliff Acob, Honeywell Space Academy for Educators, Huntsville, Alabama

VSS High Performers’ Program coordinator Cliff Acob was one of six Canadian teachers selected to attend the Honeywell Space Academy for Educators in Huntsville

Cliff Acob’s summer holiday was rocket science — the Vernon secondary school teacher spent a week at the Honeywell Space Academy for Educators with teachers from around the world and came back eager to share what he had experienced with his own students.

“I was a kid who played space Lego, watched Star Wars and Star Trek and had the fantasy of being able to go into space. At one time, my career choice was to be an astronaut,” he said.

With the opportunities for becoming an astronaut in Canada limited — there are about seven Canadian astronauts at any time, compared to 300 in the United States, he turned his enthusiasm for science and space to teaching. He came to VSS to teach science in 2003 and still teaches science while also working as the High Performers’ Program coordinator. The program is for students who are involved in sports or arts at an advanced level and must keep up their school work while performing or competing. Acob also designs on-line science programs.

“I knew a Vernon teacher, Danielle Calder, had been to the Space Academy a few years ago and I wanted to have that experience,” he said. He applied and was accepted last spring, one of six Canadians to win one of the 250 scholarships for teachers in the United States and 27 countries around the world. The Space Camp took place for a week last June at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“Young people are still interested in space but they take it more as a matter of course. The children who are in school now will be the ones who will do more space research and possibly live in space. It is important that we keep up their interest and education so they can meet these challenges,” said Acob.

His experiences varied from classroom instruction, to simulated walking on the moon to building rockets and heat shields for capsules re-entering space. They also did a simulated helicopter crash and land and water survival training, all in authentic gear. The teachers went through a simulated launch, a mission to repairing a satellite in space to the landing.

“I was in charge of managing the rockets for lift off and the shuttle. It gives you an idea of the responsibility and the pressure that the astronauts go through,” he said.

“It was great to meet other teachers from China, Australia, India, Japan, South Africa and the United States and learn from them how they teach science. I’m still going through all the materials I gathered and I want to make them available to teachers on my website. This material can be adapted for teachers to use at any grade level.”

See his information and photos at http:www.sd22.bc.ca/~cacob/

There was also a tour of Apollo 14 which is in the museum.

Acob felt well-prepared for the camp through his training as a volunteer firefighter and  Ironman triathlete. It is still in the back of his mind to apply to the Canadian astronaut program.

He definitely plans to apply to attend the advanced space camp for educators in the next few years. All space camp expenses, including transportation, are included in the scholarships by Honeywell. He encourages other teachers to apply at http://educators.honeywell.com.


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