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Spacecats: blastoff!

February 3, 2011

A while ago, I wrote about how I’m working with a student, M, on a project to launch a weather balloon into space. Since our mascot is a wildcat, and almost everything organization has a cats name (wiredcats-robotics team, dirtcats-garden club), M decided to call her team the spacecats. The project will feature high school students (9th graders mostly) leading a team of 6th graders to design and build the “space probe” we want to launch.

There have been a number of exciting recent developments in this project. M has started a blog to track the progress of this project. M also put together a fantastic presentation, completely on her own, to our school’s service learning board, which can grant funds to students for service learning projects. M’s presentation was a hit, and the committee granted her $1000 to get started. By the way, this committee might be one of the most awesome, and least well known things about my school. How cool is it that a 9th grade student can create an idea for service learning, and the present that idea to other students who give her support, encouragement and the financial resources to make the project a reality?

I also sent M this link to a project NASA is sponsoring for students to propose ideas for experiments to be carried out aboard space balloons with the winning idea getting $1000 to fund the project. Some of the ideas presented in the article are awesome, like sending up a sealed roll of film to measure exposure to gamma rays in the upper atmosphere.

I’m super excited to see where M takes this project. She’s thinking about approaching it from design/prototyping approach, and I think it will be an incredible learning project for her, the peers she recruits to help her, and the 6th grade students she’s working with. When M and I were talking about ideas yesterday, I got so excited my eyes grew a bit watery. This happens often when I’m watching students make a breakthroughs in physics, or come to an important realization about themselves—it’s one of the strongest signs I have that I’ve found the right career, but I’m afraid it must make me look like a sap from time to time when I’m talking to a student.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alexandra Maniaci permalink
    February 5, 2011 8:13 pm

    This post goes along so well with what I’ve been reading about for my EDM310 class. This weather balloon project is the perfect example of encouraging creativity in schools. Your student is not doing just the minimum amount of work to get by, but is going above and beyond the requirements. This kind of response, even if it’s just from one student, should make any teacher proud of their profession. Good luck to you and your student, I hope it turns out great!

    • February 5, 2011 9:52 pm

      Thanks Alexandra,
      I tend to agree. I certainly feel more proud of this work this student has done, with almost no assistance from me, than I do about most of the exams I grade. I’m excited to see where it takes her.

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