Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Lessons from Space Camp

By Jackie Slaviero

Fascination with space travel can launch primary students into a life of maths and science discovery.

Jackie Slaviero is Assistant Principal at Sydney’s Eastwood Public School and a councillor of the NSW Science Teachers’ Association. She and her pupils are currently raising funds to visit Space Camp later this year.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In 1977 the head of NASA, Dr Wernher von Braun, was visiting NASA’s first visitor centre in Huntsville, Alabama. He noticed children studying the rockets on display and making notes.

“We have band camps, football camps, cheerleading camps – why don’t we have a science camp?” von Braun suggested to Edward O. Buckbee, then CEO of the centre.

Five years later NASA’s Space Camp was founded to promote the study of maths, science and technology in schools. Now entering its thirtieth year of operation, Space Camp has seen more than 500,000 students graduate from its programs and has delivered on its goals.

A survey of more than 9000 Space Camp alumni found that 93% had taken more science courses and 91% had taken more maths courses after attending the camp. Another survey of students from nine North Alabama schools found they had achieved a 21% gain in their understanding of the scientific process and a 47% gain in understanding of the significance of space exploration.

Such outcomes are worth considering at a time when the low levels of participation in maths and science courses at school and university are a focus of concern for educators, businesses and the Australian government. The Prime Minister has asked the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, to advise the government on how to raise the levels of participation and performance in maths and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.