Wesley College Melbourne Australia
Wesley College Melbourne

Learning beyond the stratosphere

Posted 22 August 2018
Wesley College CASE space camp

During last term’s school holidays a group of our students participated in the CASE Space School International Study Program, in one of the world’s most profound and inspiring science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) environments, NASA. Students had opportunities to immerse themselves in activities normally reserved for people undertaking astronaut training. 

Students benefit enormously from the interactions and exposure they have to the people they encounter throughout the trip, but also from the immersive learning that takes place as they work collaboratively to solve problems related to activities experienced during the program. They learn to live together and be considerate of others, and they form friendships that otherwise may not occur. 

Students also gain so much from the cultural experience of travelling to a different part of the world. They gain the opportunity to meet like-minded students, with a similar passion for space and STEAM subjects, both from Wesley and from other visiting schools. 

They also have an amazing opportunity to gain an insight into the progress made in space exploration and understanding, as well as the enormity of how much more there is still to learn. It assists in fuelling their desire to be a part of that next frontier of exploration and understanding. 

Wesley College CASE space camp

Having fun with moon gravity walking

Meet the astronauts 

Students had the opportunity to meet two astronauts who had conducted Space Shuttle missions. Don Thomas and Nicole Stott shared the career paths they had taken that led to acceptance into the NASA Astronaut Program. 

They outlined the rigorous training schedules they undertook before a Space Shuttle mission and the type of work undertaken while in orbit. Hearing about the effect of space on the human body and the procedures that needed to be followed on their return to Earth in order to function in Earth’s atmosphere was fascinating. 

It was also interesting to hear about their careers since participating in NASA’s Shuttle missions. Both were inspirational speakers who provided our students with insight into the discipline and resilience required to undertake a career involving space flight. 

Mission Control 

Wesley College CASE space camp

Students in 'mission control'

The students’ learning during this camp was focused on the relationship that STEAM subjects have to NASA’s space program and the exploration of science. They learned about the immense work involved in becoming an astronaut and behind the scenes research and mission control programs.

Students learned about the history of the space program and the various manned and unmanned rockets that have been launched. They were given the opportunity to experience several mock mission control scenarios which enabled them to quickly discover the importance of time management, effective communication and the stresses that people are under when working in such important positions. 

Throughout the trip they were allocated teams to work with which included students from the three campuses working together. They presented their findings on one aspect of NASA’s operations which was researched while at the Johnson Space Centre. Learning about other scientific and technological initiatives, such as renewable energy, also allowed them to see that research towards space and our own planet are connected. 

A rewarding experience for our teachers 

Wesley College CASE space camp

According to Jenny Luca, Head of Digital Learning, ‘For me, the most rewarding part of any school trip is being able to learn outside of classroom walls and find connection points with students as you travel with the freedom of elongated time. These are connections that you may not have the opportunity to foster in time constrained lessons at school.’ 

‘It was extremely rewarding to meet so many amazing students from across the three campuses and watching them grow and develop in their passion for STEAM, and see how well they conducted themselves and how engaged they were, not only soaking up all of the information presented but also questioning where next this knowledge and information can take us.’ says Gayathri Wijesekera, Head of Design and Technology. 

As Daniel Foster, Glen Waverley teacher, observed, ‘Seeing how our students immersed themselves in learning and showed a true passion for wanting to make a difference in the future was very exciting. As staff, we are very lucky to be able to share our passion for these topics with students. It is also exciting to see new locations and have access to opportunities that would not normally be available.’ 

A trip of a lifetime for students 

Wesley College CASE space camp

Students suiting up as astronauts

‘The tour offered a chance to meet some famous astronauts and scientists and take part in activities which would enhance our knowledge of space. The tour also offered room for interests beyond space, investigating other areas of science with activities such as the cell lab and energy project. 

We went on a Multi Axis Trainer (MAT), a G-force gravity spin, a moon-gravity walk, space missions and more. These activities were unique and an amazing experience. Most of us had never done anything close to what we took part in during the tour. The activities provided us with a glimpse of what real astronaut training and working at NASA would be like. 

In my opinion, the coolest thing about science is the incredible size of our universe. On Earth, we would address a tall building as being ‘gigantic’. But if we zoom out on the great universe scale, that building would be a mere dot compared to our planet. Zoom out a little further, and our planet is wildly insignificant next to the sun. 

But the sun is almost invisible in comparison to red giants and supergiants. The size of our universe is so large it is unimaginable which is a frightening, overwhelming but incredibly cool thought.’ Yolanda

‘This trip was highly recommended to me by a good friend who went on the tour last year. 

The thing that enjoyed the most about the space tour was gaining new information which was both interesting and valuable to me. It was also good to meet new people and experience a new culture with them. 

I think the coolest thing about science is how far our knowledge in this area has improved over recent years and how much advancement is still to come in the not-so distant future. 

I did not go into the trip with expectations of being able to retain most of the information that was taught to me, but it was all so fascinating that I remember almost all of it. Something that dazzled me when learning was that human exploration of space has not been going on for very long and so much has been achieved. I am looking forward to what happens in the future.’ Xan 

Wesley College CASE space camp

Multi Axis Trainer

'One thing that really stood out about the trip was the chance to experience what it would be like to be an astronaut. We got to go on several simulators that imitated different environments and feelings as though we were flying on a rocket. 

The other thing I really enjoyed about this space camp was when we were doing the space missions. We got the chance to play two different roles for this task. Everyone in the space camp had to perform a rocket launch and rocket landing. I think this was one of my favorite things because I got to learn about what each person did during a space mission and also got to experience it.' Elle 

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