Washburn teacher ready to blast off to Space Academy

17 years ago

    WASHBURN, Maine – Filomena Irving will soon have an interesting answer to the question, “How’d you spend your summer vacation?”
Irving, a science/health/sexual education teacher for grades 6-8 at Washburn District Elementary School, will join 264 teachers from 21 countries and 43 U.S. states to attend the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy programs from June 22-29 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
    Designed in partnership with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy programs provide teachers with new and innovative techniques to educate their students about science and math. Irving and the other participants will complete 50 hours of professional development and participate in an intensive educator curriculum focused on space science and exploration in addition to participating in real-life astronaut training.
“The importance of inspiring our next generation to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering fields cannot be underestimated,” said Thomas Buckmaster, president of Honeywell Hometown Solutions. “Teachers are the catalysts for learning and we are delighted to provide them with the tools and resources to help them bring science to life in the classroom.”
Washburn Elementary School Principal Ricky Bragg encouraged Irving to apply for the opportunity to travel to Huntsville.
“There were 1,000 applicants from the U.S. and worldwide,” said Irving. “I had to write a series of essays, primarily about what obstacles or barriers I find teaching science in the classroom. Apparently they liked what I wrote.”
While attending Space Academy, each Honeywell educator will participate in a variety of activities including classroom, laboratory and field training, which are linked to science and math teaching standards. Each teacher will have the unique opportunity to participate in astronaut training exercises including a high-performance jet simulation, scenario-based space missions, land and water survival training, and a state-of-the-art flight dynamics program.
“The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is thrilled to work with a leading global technology company like Honeywell who has a comprehensive commitment to science and math education,” said Larry Capps, chief executive officer of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. “Because of Honeywell, we are able to bring teachers from around the world together to share their experiences and learn activities they can take back and implement in their classrooms.”
“We do a space unit in my class, and my eighth-grade students just built and launched rockets,” Irving said. “Honeywell informed me to bring an empty suitcase. They’re going to supply me with materials to bring back to my classroom so that I can better instruct my students.”
Irving said she’s excited about her upcoming trip.
“I am ecstatic,” she said. “I can’t stand myself. I can’t wait to be dropped out of a helicopter and do water rescue. The opportunity to meet with and speak with other teachers from all over the world is exciting. The opportunities are phenomenal.
“I never in a million years thought I’d be selected,” said Irving. “I’m very excited.”
A wife and mother of four, Irving said her family is equally happy for her.
“They’re supportive,” she said, “although my littlest one said, ‘What about my dinner?’ and my husband said, ‘If they ask somebody to go to space, please don’t go.’ I told him, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t make any promises.’ They’re all very excited.”
Each Honeywell educator receives a full scholarship following a rigorous application and selection process involving nearly 1,000 competing teachers from around the world. All costs for the Honeywell educators to attend the program include tuition for the six-day program, roundtrip airfare, meals, accommodations and program materials, are underwritten by Honeywell and the contributions of more than 1,700 Honeywell employees.
Irving is one of only four teachers from Maine who will be attending this year’s Space Academy.
“We’ll start our mornings at 7 a.m. and we go until 8 p.m. We’ll be doing technical application of science and technology in the classroom … how to better instruct my students in math and science. We’ll be doing engineering challenges, Martian math, and much, much more.”
When the 2007-2008 school year begins, Irving said she’ll present a Space Week in her classroom.
“We’ll actually simulate space camp for my students using a lot of what I bring back,” she said. “We’re also going to hold an invention convention, so I hope to encourage my students to think creatively. The techniques to improve the caliber of education in my science program will be ongoing.”
Since the program’s inception in 2004, Honeywell and its employees have sponsored 730 scholarships for teachers from 34 countries and 48 U.S. states to participate in the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy programs.