As a child, Amethyst Klein's dreams were many and changing: she wanted to be an astronaut, actress, singer, photographer and teacher. Ultimately, she became a teacher but never lost her enthusiasm for space and the arts. Klein is the science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) teacher for 495 students at University Park Creative Arts Elementary. This summer, she will fulfill another childhood dream — attending space camp.
"I participated in a professional development two summers ago and a participant mentioned the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy," said Klein. "I was immediately interested. I can't remember how I came across it again but when I did I applied."
Klein will be among many national and international educators who will travel to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., for a five-day camp in June. The educators will work in teams to replicate engineering challenges faced by NASA professionals. They will participate in simulated astronaut-training exercises, high-performance jet simulations, scenario-based space missions and flying programs.
"Interacting with teachers from all over the world is exciting. It sparks conversations and ideas," said Klein. "There are many opportunities to connect classrooms, too. I'm always looking for ways to engage my students locally and globally."
Klein said her students inspire her to continue learning. She wants to encourage them to explore, create and express themselves by seeing her do it.
"Space exploration is a part of my daily life," she said. "I watch documentaries like Cosmos, attend museum exhibits and my students and I follow on Twitter astronaut and engineer Scott Kelly, who spent a year in space."
Klein's teaching style is inquiry-based. Fourth-grader Keyshaun Ferguson said his one of his favorite things about Klein's class is that she encourages them to ask a lot of questions. She also includes activities with movement as much as possible.
"Today, we are starting with the live video of the two baby bald eagles from Florida," said Klein. "My students ask questions about the video, find the answers and discuss their findings. Then we put on a math music video to get them moving and transition into our engineering lesson."
That lesson focused on critical load. Students learned how to test structures for maximum load by designing and building prototypes using playing cards. They worked individually to draw and make their structures. Then they worked in teams combining parts of each other's designs to create the strongest structure, evaluate the load capacity and critical load and discuss why the strongest design worked best.
"We are always learning different things and using our imaginations," said Alana Huey, a fourth-grader. "I like working in groups because we get to see and talk about each other's ideas. Sometimes someone in the group comes up with something I hadn't even thought of. I learn a lot from it."
Klein said she has never lost her sense of wonder. She wants her students to keep theirs, too.
"I can't wait to participate in the simulators so I can feel the sensation of flying in space and to feel what it would be like to walk on the moon," she said. "Most of all I can't wait to come back and put everything I learn into action in my classroom."
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