Three Clay County teachers attend workshops, tour Kennedy Space Center

 

CELINA – Three Clay County teachers attended workshops and toured Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on June 12, a day before the space shuttle Endeavor was scheduled to launch.

“The launch was canceled early Saturday morning, due to a hydrogen leak,” U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, who coordinated the workshop and tour for the teachers, said.  “Despite the disappointment of missing the launch, the teachers reported they would be able to use the things they learned in the workshops in their classrooms back home and were thrilled at the access they had to the shuttles Discovery and Endeavor.”

Gordon chairs the House Science and Technology Committee, of which the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics is a part.  NASA is governed by this subcommittee.

Donatta Birdwell, a science teacher at Celina K-8; Jennifer Strode, a computer lab teacher at Hermitage Springs School; and Wendy Copass, a science teacher at Hermitage Springs School were among a group of nine teachers from Middle Tennessee who stood under the Discovery space shuttle as NASA employees were repairing her tiles and got a close-up view of Endeavor while it was on the launch pad during their tour of Kennedy Space Center.

“The NASA tour was one of the greatest experiences I have encountered,” Birdwell said.  “It was a privilege to represent our Tennessee teachers and school systems.  Getting to meet the astronauts and see the space shuttle Endeavor were fantastic highlights of the trip.”

Copass was similarly impressed.  “I thought it was amazing!  The concepts and theories I have always studied about space exploration came alive as we toured the facilities,” she said.  “The engineers and NASA team members answered questions I have always had.  I was so excited to be that close to the real shuttles.  It was like a dream.”

Strode said the NASA tour was an excellent opportunity for educators.  “In our area, the concept of space exploration is very unreal and abstract for students.  It has helped me create a better understanding of how space missions work and how we use them to better understand the universe,” she said.  “I have a new, regained enthusiasm and eagerness to share such science concepts in the classroom.  Overall, it was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had.”

Prior to touring the Kennedy Space Center, Birdwell and Copass spent the morning in workshops.  “Many of our new science standards for Tennessee were covered during the training,” Copass said.  “With the information and knowledge that I have gained from this experience, I feel better equipped to provide my students with hands-on opportunities to help them understand our new science standards and concepts.”

Birdwell likewise plans to use the pictures and materials she received during the trip in her science class.  “I can add the first-hand experience to enhance the information they see in the classroom.  Because of all the extra knowledge and excitement, I hope my students will grasp the concepts more easily.”

Strode said she hopes to get her students interested in science.  “I plan on sharing the pictures I took and the materials I received to get them excited about learning and more curious about science, space exploration and professions in those careers,” she said.

Birdwell, Copass and Strode were disappointed that the shuttle launch was canceled; however, they agreed safety should be a priority.  “I believe that the safety and protection of our astronauts should be the first priority.  I can understand why NASA chose to abort this launch due to the dangers that were present with a hydrogen leak,” Birdwell said.  “However, I hope to have another opportunity to return to Florida in the future to observe a space shuttle launch.”

Copass said, “I was very disappointed, but I understood the circumstances.  If lives are in danger, safety should be first.  Maybe next time, I will be able to see the real thing.”

Strode added, “I guess I have been bitten by the ‘space bug.’  I can’t wait to go back and see a launch with my family.  I would have loved to see the launch and experience the trip in its entirety.  However, I had a great time, learned a lot, and am very excited about sharing this experience in my classroom.”

Endeavor is scheduled to launch on July 11.  Her payload includes the “front porch” and spare parts for the International Space Station.  The front porch will allow astronauts to conduct research outside the space station.   The STS-127 crew consists of Commander Mark Polansky; Pilot Doug Hurley; astronauts Dave Wolf, Christopher Cassidy, Canadian Space Agency’s Julie Payette, Tom Marshburn and Tim Kopra, all mission specialists.  Kopra will stay at the International Space Station as a flight engineer, and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will return to Earth in Kopra’s place. 

Teachers interested in attending future shuttle launches should contact Joe Patterson at Gordon’s Murfreesboro district office by calling 615-896-1986 or e-mailing [email protected]

AT KENNEDY SPACE CENTER-Celina K-8 teacher Donatta Birdwell and Hermitage Springs Schools teachers Wendy Copass and Jennifer Strode stand less than 1,500 feet away from the space shuttle Endeavor on June 12, a day before the launch was canceled.  Birdwell, Copass and Strode were three of nine Middle Tennessee teachers for whom U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon arranged a tour of Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Photo submitted)

AT KENNEDY SPACE CENTER-Celina K-8 teacher Donatta Birdwell and Hermitage Springs Schools teachers Wendy Copass and Jennifer Strode stand less than 1,500 feet away from the space shuttle Endeavor on June 12, a day before the launch was canceled. Birdwell, Copass and Strode were three of nine Middle Tennessee teachers for whom U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon arranged a tour of Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Photo submitted)