Rockets, jet fuel, solar sails, payloads, ablation shields…

Not one of these words excited me before July 19, 2017.

After one day at Space Camp, I was a space junkie, heart melting at the mere sound of the rocket boosters igniting, and ready to fly off into orbit.

How on Earth could a Spanish teacher derive such meaning from a place like Space Camp?

Let me tell you about just a few of the myriad of transferrable lessons I experienced during my time there.

  1. Be curious. 
    Asking questions and searching for solutions is an obvious focus of NASA’s space program and of space camp. But how often do those outside of the “realm of science” make it their purpose to question, challenge, and let curiosity lead the way? The ability to do just that is what sets we humans apart from all other life forms, so why not embrace it? Teachers who model curiosity inspire students who think critically about the world around them. I can think of no better purpose that education could serve.
  2. Be courageous.
    The running joke with my State Teachers of the Year teammates at Space Camp was this: I’m afraid of everything. In spite of my irrational fears, my teammates helped me find the courage to try everything. As educators, we must model the skill of risk-taking, because it does not come naturally. Like all things education-related, we must show, not tell.
    And if you want a good laugh, here’s a video of me demonstrating that exact skill:
  3. Be team-focused.
    My team, as I mentioned before, led me to success. Anyone involved in the noble work of educating children must be cognizant of the necessity to work together as a team to ensure the engagement and empowerment of our youth. At Space Camp, my team worked together to complete missions to the International Space Station and to Mars. The beauty of it all was each person focused entirely on his or her job, while simultaneously devoting every spare moment to the success of the team as a whole. Imagine if every person in the school building put their full focus into making his or her part of the machine work so accurately, that the limits of the team were unlimited. Our schools could literally go to the moon.
  4. Have FUN!  

No matter how intense a situation becomes, remember that life is short and it’s best to just have fun. Have fun with your students, your colleagues, the parents, the community, and your friends. Astronaut Bob Springer put it best when he said that the most striking thing about being in outer space is the absence of borders or separation between humans. Divisions are manmade. Avoid divisions whenever possible, find your commonalities, and just have fun.