by Allison Haver
The group of fifth- and sixth-grade students traveled to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., April 2-4, for the experience and had the opportunity to take part in hands-on learning in space exploration.
The three-day program, which went from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., included a simulated space mission, lessons on space history and astronaut training on authentic astronaut simulators.
The main focus of the camp was space exploration, which reflected what the students were learning in the classroom, according to Mabel Elementary sixth-grade teacher Sumer Walser.
"The camp really tied into our curriculum, especially our sixth grade science curriculum," Walser said.
Walser was joined by fellow Mabel Elementary teachers Leah Jones and Jeanie Hicks and several parent chaperones on the trip.
As part of the camp's simulated space mission, students worked in mission control or launch as a part of the "flight crew."
The Mabel group was broken into three groups for three separate missions.
The teams were named after famous astronauts including Team Armstrong, Team Aldrin, and Team Bean.
Each student within the group was given a specific role that each real space mission must have in order to do its job successfully. Assigned roles included pilots, scientists, flight specialists, and many others.
Every group was given feedback from camp instructors on how well they worked together and their professionalism they conveyed during the mission.
Student participants also had the opportunity to build and launch their own model rockets, ride on a "lunar seat" which is intended to replicate walking on the moon, and participated in lectures on topics such as the Apollo missions and a Rocket Expo that discussed different types of rockets.
With a total of 10 groups participating in the camp, Mabel students took home two out of the three awards given: the mission and team awards.
The team award was given to Mabel for having the best professionalism and team morale and the mission award was received for completing the assigned mission to the best of the group's ability with poise, determination, and success.
The Mabel students also brought home first place in the "Space Bowl," a jeopardy-like competition that encompassed questions to showcase everything the students had learned during their time at camp.
"They were like little sponges the whole time," Walser said. "You could tell they were taking it very seriously and genuinely wanted to be there and were having a good time."
The last day of the camp was "graduation day" and participants received a certificate congratulating them on completing the course.
"The kids become "pathfinder space camp graduates," Walser said. "It (graduation) was supposed to signify that they completed trainee work and they are ready to continue to become the world's future scientists and astronauts."
Walser said the students were still excited about their experience even after coming home.
"They are still talking about it and are still really excited about it," she said Monday. "It was a good experience for them, being away from home and learning as much as they did."