For Memorial University of Newfoundland alumna Donna Gallant, going to space wasn’t always on the forefront of her mind. She didn’t even like flying. However, when she learned of the 2007 Honeywell Educators at Space Academy program, the Grade 6 teacher jumped at the opportunity to “go to space.”
In June, Ms. Gallant travelled to Huntsville, Ala., to participate in the Space Academy program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. She was one of over 240 Grades 6 to 8 science and math teachers from around the world who received full scholarships from Honeywell to attend this week-long program.
Consisting of 50 hours of intensive classroom, laboratory, and training time, the program focuses on space science and space exploration. During her week in Alabama, Ms. Gallant participated in astronaut-style training and simulations along with activities designed to promote lifelong learning in a classroom setting. Upon arrival, participants were divided into teams. Ms. Gallant was a member of a 16-person team of teachers from Canada, the United States, Hungary and Czech Republic.
“Every day, for 14 hours a day, we were thrown into team challenges,” explained Ms. Gallant, B.Ed.’94. “We were elementary teachers who had the knowledge of teaching science, but we had to take that one step further and apply the knowledge through scientific reasoning and research.”
Among the mental and physical challenges that Ms. Gallant experienced was a simulated journey on the Saturn IV Rocket Launcher. She was launched 100 feet upwards and then did a free-fall back to earth. As Mission Scientist, Ms. Gallant was responsible for communicating solutions to the orbiting Space Station to fix problems like air pressure or nitrogen levels. It’s this type of hands-on, critical thinking scientific teamwork that Ms. Gallant wants to bring back to her students.
“Students get excited about hands-on activities,” she said. “Anything that I have done with my students to date has generated a lot of interest. And I mean students who are sometimes challenged in the classroom where there may be a lot of note-taking and test-writing. Students who may be challenged in these areas absolutely excel in hands-in activities. And these are the students that you want to reach.”
Ms. Gallant’s enthusiasm has encouraged her, along with fellow Space Academy student and elementary school teacher, Cherry Harbin, to offer a day-long activity camp in Corner Brook, based upon the design challenges given at the Space Academy.
“Honeywell has provided all participants with a CD-ROM containing all of the activities that we did, all of the information and the posters as well as presentations on the galaxy and lunar missions. So we have a lot to go on.”
While Ms. Gallant does not harbour any desire to travel through space anytime soon, she highly recommends and encourages this program.
“This program and the individuals that I met have changed my whole life perspective. I feel empowered and inspired. If I can reach just one student with the knowledge and skills I have gained at the Space Academy that would make my whole career. I try to be a teacher who inspires students to do the very best that they can.
I want to show them that learning does not end with the completion of your education; that being a teacher does not mean that you stop learning. With the support of Honeywell, I can clearly demonstrate this continuous learning to my students and, with any luck, encourage their interest and expand their knowledge in the fields of science, math and technology.”
Ms. Gallant teaches at J.J. Curling Elementary in Corner Brook, NL. She plans to pursue her master of education at Memorial later this year.