One of Kelley Schneider’s favorite classroom memories is when she got to teach her third-grade students about space. “I put black paper up on the walls, and made a planetarium in class,” she said.
So when Schneider, who now teaches fourth grade in the Kyrene district, heard about the Honeywell Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., a five-day program for teachers from around the world to learn about science, math and the space program, she knew she had to apply.
“I told them in my application that it didn’t matter what adventures they wanted me to do—they could strap me in a space suit, and no matter what they asked me to do, I would just go for it,” she said.
Schneider’s enthusiasm and positive attitude must have caught the eye of the selection committee; out of around 1,100 applications, Schneider was selected to be one of 220 teachers from 21 countries and 48 states to head to Alabama in mid-June.
The camp, which ran from June 16-20, started each day at 7 in the morning and ended at 9:30 at night, but Schneider said the long days “never seemed boring.”
In fact, to say that Schneider had a blast at space camp is probably the understatement of the year. She not only got to strap on a space suit, she participated in astronaut training including a two-hour simulated space mission, experienced anti-gravity and floated up toward the ceiling, learned to extract DNA from strawberries, and much more.
Best of all, Schneider said, she returned home with not only a bright-blue space suit she plans to wear at meet-the-teacher night in early August, along with quite an assortment of photos and “hundreds of lessons” that she can propose to her principal to be part of the curriculum.
Since Kyrene schools are currently stressing the science, technology, engineering and math lessons, or STEM curriculum, Schneider said her experience at Space Camp and what she brought home with her could not have been timed any better.
“The DNA that we collected from strawberries—I can do that with my fourth graders as well,” she said. “Just the science alone that I’ll bring back to school with me is amazing.”
During a lecture by Ed Buckbee, who spoke about NASA’s plans to put someone on Mars one day, Schneider was struck by his comment that whoever makes it to Mars is probably in elementary or high school right now.
“That just made me think, ‘You know what, that child might be in my class,’” she said.
In addition to all of the math and science lessons that Schneider said she looks forward to sharing with her class, along with stories of her time spent at the camp, she hopes the number-one lesson her students take away with them is that you are never too old to stop the educational process.
“I’m a lifelong learner, and (the kids) are lifelong learners,” she said. “I love teaching and I love learning. Science, technology, and math—we teach all of that now, and it’s important for them to see their teachers learning. I always say the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.”
Schneider teaches at Kyrene Monte Vista elementary school in Ahwatukee.