|INTEGRATED DEFENSE SYSTEMS|
Partners in time
Boeing sees its Educators to Space Camp program as one way to connect the company to its future
BY MALLEY HISLOP
When speaking of the impact educators should have in a society, Plutarch, a Greek writer and philosopher who lived 2,000 years ago, may have put it best when he said: "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted."
To help spark the minds of youths, Boeing has sponsored a program called Boeing Educators to Space Camp. Launched in 1992 at a division of Boeing that was then North American Rockwell, the program has strived to interest young people in space by first stoking a passion for the sciences in those whom they work with every day: their teachers.
Boeing embraced the concept as a way to have some measure of influence on the future of its workforceand after 10 years, the program is going strong. In fact, the company recently held a reunion and invited as many of its 260 previously-sponsored educators as it could locate back for another week at the privately run camp. The reunion, however, wasn't an occasion for merely remembering old times. The returning 82 educators were treated to an Advanced Space Camp curriculum designed to enhance their abilities to foster "fire-starting" science-related lessons and classroom activities.
"The idea is to have educators come away from Space Camp with a renewed zeal for math and science," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO, Integrated Defense Systems. "We believe an enlightened and engaged educator will have a better chance of helping the next generation of thinkers to see the excitement and potential in the aerospace industry. We need those minds."
According to the educators, it's working."I must take all this back to my classroom and give those children a look at the ‘outside' world. It's up to us as educators to open their minds to the possibilities," said Pat Atlow, a Los Angeles elementary teacher and member of the Boeing Educators to Space Camp class of '92.
The educators who have been through the program range in grade level from elementary to college preparatory. The bulk have been from areas around the country where Boeing has a business presence, but the company also has invited international educators from communities near Boeing sites in nations such as Canada, Italy, France, Japan and Germany.
The reunion took place at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Space Camp facility in Huntsville, Ala. But in years past, educators also have attended camp-related activities at Titusville, Fla., and Houston. While at camp, educators participate in activities, see classroom demonstrations and are given lesson plans that are designed to help them spark the minds of their students. Conservative estimates put the number of pupils who have since been taught by "Boeing" educators worldwide at more than 30,000.
Even though these educators were chosen to attend Space Camp by their districts based on exemplary performance in the classroom, they often return from Space Camp with something of a celebrity statusor at least they become known as the hottest resources for the latest in space teaching materials.
"Space Camp is a tremendous experience," said Alexandra Penn Williams, a Charter School curriculum consultant from Melbourne, Fla., and a member of Boeing Educators to Space Camp class of '93. "I believe any time teachers can get out of the classroom and see how all these scientific concepts and theories are applied in real life, it's going to make them better educators. That's the gift Boeing has given us."
That's what Educators to Space Camp is all about.
"What we try to do here is create more of an interest in math, science and technology in whoever comes through our doors," said Larry Capps, CEO, U.S. Space & Rocket Center. "I believe educators leave here charged up and ready to teach. I commend Boeing and other companies who get involved in education by sponsoring educators like this. It's a great example of forward thinking."
Accolades for the Space Camp experience—or even for teachers who are already excited about the sciences—aren't coming from just educators or camp administrators. A current Boeing employee feels she's an engineer at Boeing today because of a fourth-grade teacher who discussed the space program in class and gave her a poster of the space shuttle.
"It was enough to make me beg my parents to let me attend Space Camp," said Cheree Kiernan, an IDS engineer working in the Special Projects System Engineering department in Seal Beach, Calif. In fact, Kiernan worked at Space Camp in Florida for three years while in college.
"I cannot stress enough how important it is to inspire the teachers to inspire their students," Kiernan added. "It is going to become a real challenge for the aerospace companies to acquire enough motivated college hires each year to counter the number of people that retire. I believe that the answer to the question, 'What does Boeing gain from sponsoring teachers?' is simple: It's future."
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